Edinburgh breakfast club funding cut 'will lead to pupils skipping school'

FUNDING for a breakfast club under threat of closure could be fed into next year’s budget as organisers warned the council’s new model could lead to children not attending school.

Tuesday, 8th October 2019, 5:12 pm
Updated Tuesday, 8th October 2019, 5:13 pm
The Venchie has pockets of funding to continue only until Christmas

Council officials have been told to provide evidence of the impact of changing to a “universal” model for breakfast club provision – following a funding cut for the Venchie project, which has been operating in Craigmillar for 60 years.

The new model is being used by the council to ensure “breakfast clubs are universally available for all children” in order to “help prevent any potential stigmatisation”.

The Venchie, which also helps youngsters get to school after offering breakfast, was unsuccessful for funding form the council’s children and families revenue grant programme but councillors agreed to provide temporary funding of £10,000 which runs out in December.

Kevin Ross, representing the Venchie project, warned the city council’s education, children and families committee that not supporting the service will impact on the welfare of young people.

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He said: “The children have not been consulted and neither have the parents. We are gravely, gravely concerned about the welfare of these vulnerable children, their families and the community that we work for.

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Education convener, Cllr Ian Perry said the universal model was best to go with – but his vice convener, Cllr Alison Dickie, warned that “one size doesn’t fit all”.

Cllr Perry added: “The unfortunate thing for them is we have chosen a different model for families and morning support – we have gone for the universal.

“I’m convinced that the universal is best. It looks at the child in the round as part of the whole school process.”

Council officials reassured the committee that “all children attending the Venchie breakfast club are guaranteed a full place at the universal breakfast club” and confirmed there are 30 places set aside for children at the Venchie.

They added: “We are confident no child will be disadvantaged by the transition to the universal breakfast club.”

Conservative education spokesperson, Cllr Callum Laidlaw, saw his plea for £50,000 of funding to be restored for the project rejected in August. He said that he doesn’t believe there should be a “binary choice” between the Venchie and the new universal model and raised concerns “some of those children will end up not attending school”.

He added: “The cuts to the funding of the Venchie project, and organisation at the heart of the Craigmillar community, fly in the face of council policy on early intervention to protect our most vulnerable children from adverse childhood experiences.

“Referred breakfast clubs offer something completely different to the universal provision in our primary schools and I think should be extended rather than shut-down. So I called for evidence that the policies agreed by the SNP and Labour at full council will not harm these children for whom the Venchie, and the similar project in Drylaw, provide a lifeline.

“I think it also speaks volumes that the council is quite happy to pay out millions on headline grabbing projects in the city centre but apparently can’t find a few thousand to support an organisation helping vulnerable children in one of the city’s most deprived communities.”

Councillors agreed for calls by Cllr Laidlaw for an investigation into the school attendance and potentially attainment of children no longer attending the Venchie project – ahead of budget negotiations for the next financial year when funding could be agreed for the project.

Green education spokesperson Cllr Steve Burgess added: “I don’t think any councillor round the table would doubt that it’s a useful service.

“So I really hope that it’s able to continue to build a close relationship with the school breakfast club at both schools, in a way which allows its strengths to continue.”