A plan to make free school meals available to everyone has been proposed, in a bid to tackle child poverty and the rise in food banks.
This would mean thousands more children could be entitled to free school meals, as a way of supporting households on low incomes, the Mirror reports.
New research by the Mayor of London found that around 400,000 children in the capital have ‘very low food security’. This means they are, or could be at risk of being, without proper access to affordable and nutritious food.
These findings highlight the enormity of the problem, as hundreds of thousands of kids aren’t getting proper nutrition at school or at home – and that’s just in London, up here in Greater Manchester we have some of the highest levels of child poverty and deprivation in the country.
To tackle the problem, the London Assembly has approved a motion asking the Mayor, Sadiq Khan, to jointly write to the Secretary of State for Education and plead the case for universal free school meals for all kids.
At the moment, free school meals are usually given to those on low incomes who receive state support – but families could be missing out on millions.
Due to a loophole, where the money is given back to the company if a pupil doesn’t use their full allowance by the end of the day, thousands of families are losing out.
Luke Bramhall, from Children North East, said: “This is a national issue. From Brighton to Middlesbrough, from Manchester to Scunthorpe, Children North East has spoken to over 65,000 pupils in more than 180 schools across England as part of ‘Poverty Proofing the School Day’ which identifies barriers to equality of experience in education.
“Across the country we are told about how the money allocated to children on free school meals is taken off them at the end of the day – and that children are going without as a result.”
The charity is now calling on the Government to do something about this, by giving the allowance back to help struggling parents feed their children.
Kath Wade, at Tyne & Wear Citizens, added: “It’s simply not right that this is happening. All it requires is a simple change to an IT system to ensure the change from lunch goes to those pupils who need it most.
“A hungry child can’t concentrate, a child that can’t concentrate can’t learn, and a child that can’t learn can’t reach their full potential. And isn’t that what we all want?”
Families to be able to visit elderly relatives in care homes soon, Health Secretary says
Health Secretary Matt Hancock told ITV News the government will be reopening care homes for visits again soon.
Since mid-March, visiting in care homes has been banned keeping thousands of people away from their elderly relatives for almost four months. Leading charities have said the mental and physical health of residents is suffering due to ‘enforced separation’.
Mr Hancock told ITV News on Thursday: “We’ve been very very careful to ensure that visitors don’t bring coronavirus back into a care home but in the next few days we will be setting out how COVID secure visiting can happen in care homes.
“How we can have more visits of loved ones in a way that is very careful and in a way that keeps care homes safe.”
He added: “I very much hope that in the next few days we’ll be able to make this change. We’ve got to make sure it works for each local area but I hope we can make that change very soon.”
During the conversation, Hancock refused to apologise for Boris Johnson’s claims that care homes were at fault for coronavirus deaths. Hancock did say that social care workers had gone to ‘extraordinary lengths’ to keep people safe throughout the pandemic.
Hancock also appeared to suggest that he would lobby for a pay rise.
Regarding a second wave, the Health Secretary said: “Well I very much hope there won’t be one. People talk about the second wave as if its something that is inevitable.”
Hancock reflected on the worst moment of the pandemic saying: “The hardest time without a doubt was after we’d brought in the lockdown, when the numbers were still going up, and we knew that the impact of the lockdown would have an impact in a couple of weeks’ time but we didn’t know how much of an impact.”
The update on care home visits comes as leading charities join forces to call on the government to allow relatives of dementia patients to be treated as key workers.
The BBC reports that Dementia UK and Alzheimer’s Society have signed a letter to the Health Secretary calling on visits to resume safely and relatives to be given ‘key worker’ access to care homes and coronavirus testing.
During the pandemic, there have been 5,404 excess deaths, which is a 52.5% increase compared with the five-year average in people with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease in England and Wales, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
Prof Martin Green, the chief executive of Care England, said a balance needed to be struck between allowing family visits and protecting care home residents from further coronavirus outbreaks.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Families are a really important part of care delivery but at the same time you have to be really, really cautious because, as people know, care homes have been really badly affected during this pandemic.
“People living in care homes are probably at the highest risk, so if there is an outbreak of Covid-19, it has serious and very tragic consequences, so I think we have to balance the need for people to engage with their relatives and families but also we have a responsibility for the protection and safety of the people in care homes.”
Everything you need to know about gyms, swimming pools and beauty salons reopening
Here’s what you need to know…
The government has announced that leisure facilities and beauty services in England will be allowed to reopen this month.
The latest updates to lockdown restrictions include the reopening of gyms, swimming pools and the much-anticipated beauticians.
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said ‘normal life is slowly returning’ at the Downing Street news conference last night.
He said: “Having allowed hairdressers to reopen, beauticians, tattooists, spas, tanning salons and other close contact services can now do the same, I’m pleased to say, from Monday.
“Of course that will be subject to some restrictions on particularly high-risk services.”
Gyms can also now reopen and people will not be expected to wear face coverings. While changing rooms will be open where possible, people are encouraged to shower and change at home.
Other measures will include limiting the number of people that can use a facility at any one time, reducing the size of classes and spacing out the equipment – there will also be strict cleaning procedures in place.
Regarding sports, club cricket can return this Saturday with limited numbers of spectators. Guidance has been published for competitive grassroots team sports to resume, but each sport will have to submit an action plan to the government.
People can attend an outdoors sports event in small numbers, providing they are in groups of no more than two households or no more than six people, while adhering to social distancing measures.
At the Downing Street briefing, Mr Dowden said: “I’m really urging people to get out there and to play their part: buy the tickets for outdoor plays and musical recitals, get to your local gallery and support your local businesses.
“Our fight began with a collective effort and I really hope it will end with one.
“At the beginning, we all stayed at home to protect the NHS and save lives, now the British public has a new part to play. It’s time to eat out to help out, to enjoy the arts to help out and to work out to help out.
“It’s over to all of you to help the country recover safely.”
Beauticians can reopen but not all beauty treatments will be able to go ahead. For instance, face waxing, sugaring or threading services, facial treatments, make-up applications and eyebrow treatments are all deemed too high-risk. Beard trimming is allowed, however.
The full list of treatments that still aren’t allowed:
- Face waxing, sugaring or threading services
- Facial treatments
- Advanced facial technical (electrical or mechanical)
- Eyelash treatments
- Make-up application
- Electrolysis on the face
- Eyebrow treatments
- Intricate detailing, outlining or shaving of beards
- Advanced beauty therapy and aesthetic treatments
The businesses that can now reopen include:
- Outdoor pools and outdoor theatres from July 11th
- Grassroots sports from July 11th
- Beauticians, tattooists, spas, tanning salons from July 13th (subject to restrictions)
- Indoor gyms, indoor swimming pools and sports facilities from July 25th.
- Singing and playing brass and wind instruments will be allowed in professional environments
- Small indoor performances with socially distanced audience can be piloted
Welsh campsites will reopen to holidaymakers later this month
Welsh First Minister, Mark Drakeford, has revealed that campsites will reopen in Wales later this month.
From tomorrow, self-contained accommodation such as static caravans and holiday lodge parks can reopen, but Drakeford has now shared the date for campsite facilities.
Speaking on Radio 5 Live, Drakeford said they can reopen from July 25th.
He also announced that house viewings of properties that are occupied in Wales can restart on July 27th.
Mr Drakeford said: “Campsites can open from July 25th if we make a success of the reopening of self-contained accommodation which will begin as of tomorrow.
“Campsites have shared facilities and it’s not like just going into a toilet in a shop, you have to use the shared facilities whether that’s showers, kitchens, toilets.
“We need to make sure campsites in Wales are well prepared, are safe to reopen.
“They will have a fortnight now to prepare and then from the 25th of July providing all is well people will be able to use those facilities as well.”
Will you be heading for the fields with your tent? Let us know!