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1 in 7 lower-income Welsh households struggle to access breakfast clubs - New survey from CPAG and Parentkind

Breakfast clubs key to tackling the cost of living squeeze, yet1 in 7 lower-income Welsh households struggles to access them. More than one in seven lower-income parents with children at primary school in Wales can’t get a breakfast club place, despite the Welsh Government’s aim to ensure all primary school kids that need a free breakfast can have one, a survey of parents by Child Poverty Action Group and Parentkind finds.  Just over a third (34%) of families who can’t get a place said having one would help with living costs. As the cost of living crisis deepens, Child Poverty Action Group and Parentkind are pressing the Welsh Government to work with schools to ensure free breakfast places are a reality for every child that needs one. Across all income levels, one in ten primary school parents would like a breakfast place, but don’t have one, the survey of almost 7,000 parents found. Parents said either their school didn’t have breakfast provision or there wasn’t a space for their child, but it was unclear from the findings to what extent any charges for breakfast club were prohibitive.  Of the two in five primary school parents who do have a breakfast place, a large majority (91%) across all income levels said it helped them to get to work on time. 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 survey also found strong support for more optional before and after-school activities for children.   Four in five parents said they would welcome a range of children’s activities outside of core school hours, with physical activity and sport the most popular option (64%). Among primary school parents, more than 2 in 5 said after-school activities would help them to work as they would not need additional childcare in those hours and preferences were for extra art and drama activities (53%) and music activities (52%).  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 over 2 in 5 (45%) of all parents and nearly half (49%) of families on benefits requesting these. The Welsh Government has had a free breakfast commitment for primary school children since 2004 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.  This means the Government’s policy objective of providing a free breakfast to every primary child who needs one is not being met. 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. Survey methodology: parents and carers across Wales were invited to take part in an online survey during January 2022. The survey was available in English and Welsh. In total, we heard from 6,843 parents and carers. 5,350 had a youngest child in primary school, and 1,493 had their youngest child in secondary school. 1,676 were either in receipt of, or in the process of applying for, means-tested benefits. This represents 25% of the entire sample; we refer to these respondents as ‘lower-income families’ in our analysis. The full report is available at this page: https://cpag.org.uk/policy-and-campaigns/report/parents-and-carers%E2%80%99-views-reform-school-day-and-year-wales