Labour Leader Cllr Claire Douglas
Labour Leader Cllr Claire Douglas

Councillors are to write to Government seeking a longer term solution to the problem of children going hungry in school holidays, after ruling councillors in York made a single year commitment to help tackle the problem.

Eligibility for free school meals has risen by 33% overall in York over the last two years, and by 44% across secondary school pupils over the same period.  In that time Universal Credit claimants in the city have doubled to over 11,000.

Main Opposition Labour Group Leader, Cllr Claire Douglas, council leader Cllr Keith Aspden and Chair of the council’s Children’s Scrutiny Committee, Cllr Simon Daubeney will jointly write to Government to seek answers over what support, if any, lies beyond the use of temporary Covid support funding to tackle food poverty in York.


Cllr Douglas said:

“I challenged ruling councillors at their recent Executive meeting to think very hard about the implications for child poverty and its longer term impact on educational attainment and employment if funding for food during school holidays doesn’t continue.

“The cost of living crisis is not going away anytime soon. Quite the opposite, it is only set to get worse as food, energy and other costs go through the roof. Inflation is approaching double digits and that is hugely difficult for those who were already struggling on limited household budgets.

“I welcome the leader’s proposal to write to Government to seek further funding but I’m worried that, if the Conservative Government’s past record is anything to go by, if it declines to provide further support the Lib Dem-Green administration will wash its hands of responsibility and of doing what it can locally.

“It’s not easy, we appreciate that following a decade of austerity, but the council has choices it can make to provide further help”.


Councillor Douglas also challenged the council to review its procedures around financial support and to question whether they are currently, perhaps inadvertently, putting residents off seeking support.


“Many processes are moving to digital only and that rules out a significant chunk of York residents from gaining access to services and support”, added Cllr Douglas. 

“That is quite wrong and prevents support reaching the very people who need it most.  That in turn will lead to further problems and more costly demands on council services further down the line, so is neither in the council’s financial interests nor in the interests of the very residents who desperately need support”.


The letter comes on the back of a cross-party council scrutiny review into school holiday hunger in which the role played by voluntary and community organisations in tackling food poverty was acknowledged and praised by councillors.

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