Lower-income Welsh households struggle to access breakfast clubs
A survey by child poverty campaign groups in Wales has found that more than one in seven lower income parents with primary age children can’t get a breakfast club place.
In 2004 the Welsh Government committed to offering free breakfast places for all primary school children, but local authorities are only obliged to provide breakfasts to a school if the school requests them and there is no obligation on schools to run a free breakfast club.
As the cost-of-living crisis deepens, Child Poverty Action Group and Parentkind say they are pressing the Welsh Government to work with schools to make the aim a reality, reporting that around 34% of families unable to get a place said having one would help with living costs.
Welsh schools receiving local authority funds to provide breakfasts cannot charge for the breakfast but where schools offer longer childcare hours than is expected or other extra provision, they are able to charge. Schools that run their own breakfast club can also charge.
The survey of more than 7000 parents found that, across all income levels, one in ten parents of primary school children would like a breakfast place but don’t have one, with parents reporting that either their school didn’t have breakfast provision or there wasn’t a space for their child.
The groups say that it was unclear from the findings to what extent any charges for breakfast club were prohibitive.
Of those parents who do have a breakfast place, 91% said it helped them to get to work on time. The survey also found that 80% of respondents would welcome more optional activities before and after-school, so that they could get to work on time and work later without having to fund childcare.
The survey found that preferences for extra activities included 64 % of parents calling for physical activity and sport, 53% seeking extra art and drama activities and 52% asking for music activities. Secondary parents favoured extra opportunities for academic learning (39%) and homework clubs (41%).
Parents also want activities to support children’s mental and emotional wellbeing, with 45% of all parents and nearly half 49% of families on benefits requesting these.
Child Poverty Action Group’s Wales Development Manager Ellie Harwood said: “For families struggling to stay afloat as living costs surge, a free breakfast can be a lifeline. But kids can’t eat air and our research shows far too many are missing out, as the Welsh Government’s breakfast club offer isn’t being consistently delivered on the ground. It’s time to make good on the promise and make free breakfast a reality for every primary school child.
“We hope the Government will also listen to the many parents in our survey who want more before and after-school activities. Done well, the activities are enriching for children and pivotal for parents juggling kids, jobs and paying the bills.
Parentkind’s Chief Executive John Jolly said: “The commitment from the Welsh Government to provide a free breakfast space to all children was incredibly welcome; after all, the benefits of a healthy breakfast are well documented.
However, this poll shows that too many Welsh families are missing out. If the knock-on benefits are to be realised, of parents getting to work on time and managing to balance already stretched household budgets, more needs to be done to improve provision.
“As things stand, this policy is of little use to the 1 in 7 lower income households whose children are at risk of going hungry each morning.”
The full report is available here.
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