mother and child shopping customer

Source: Getty

The government has revealed it will spend more than £400m to support poor children and their families

Campaign groups and retailers have welcomed the government’s u-turn on support for child hunger, following a campaign by Manchester United star Marcus Rashford.

Over the weekend it emerged Boris Johnson had telephoned the England forward to explain the government would spend more than £400m to support poor children and their families.

The spending will include a winter grant scheme, to be run by councils, to provide support with food and bills, and the expansion of the government’s holiday food club programme.

Meanwhile, those on low incomes with young children will see their benefits payments to buy fresh fruit & vegetables grow from £3.10 to £4.25 a week from April, in a boost to the Healthy Start scheme.

Rashford told the BBC the decision would “improve the lives of almost 1.7 million children”.

In September, Rashford launched a taskforce with a raft of major supermarkets and suppliers to increase pressure on the government after it refused to extend free school meals to support vulnerable children.

Johnson had previously said Universal Credit was the best way to help.

The money will pay for the Covid Winter Grant Scheme to support families over the festive season, while the Holiday Activities and Food programme will be extended to cover next year’s Easter, summer and Christmas breaks.

The new package of support will see £170m distributed through councils, with at least 80% earmarked for help with food and bills.

The funding will cover the period from the beginning of December until the end of March.

The holiday food and activities programme will be expanded with a £220m investment to cover Easter, summer and Christmas in 2021.

There is also a £16m grant to the nation’s food banks.

“This announcement is welcome, and will provide a real boost to struggling families, not just those hit by lockdown, but the many who were struggling before,” said Ben Reynolds, deputy CEO of Sustain.

“The support in holidays and the increased value of healthy start vouchers will help ensure more poor children are fed, and are fed healthily.

“This is a useful step, and we hope that the government will build on these measures to sew up the other holes in the safety net for children’s health by extending free school meals to all children in poverty, expand the school fruit & veg scheme, and ensure that more of this food comes from sustainable British farming, which could be paid for in part by an extension to the soft drinks levy.”

ACS CEO James Lowman said the move was “really important” and urged retailers to take part in the Healthy Start scheme to “benefit their business and the community”.