Coronavirus daily update: Friday 17 July

Derren Hayes
Friday, July 17, 2020

The government sets out plans for how its 12 Opportunity Areas will support recovery from the pandemic in England's most deprived communities.

Michelle Donelan said under the plans, the 12 areas in England will be ‘twinned’ with places facing similar challenges, expanding the programme’s reach
Michelle Donelan said under the plans, the 12 areas in England will be ‘twinned’ with places facing similar challenges, expanding the programme’s reach
  • Each day, CYP Now will summarise the key issues affecting the children and families sector as it tackles the effects of the pandemic. The daily update signposts children’s services practitioners and leaders to the latest developments, expert views, advice and resources.

Opportunity Areas to support pandemic recovery

The government is to use its Opportunity Areas programme to boost education and employment support to help disadvantaged communities recover from the coronavirus pandemic.

Michelle Donelan, minister for the Opportunity Areas, said the fourth year of the programme will bring together ministers responsible for employment, youth services, public health, business and industry and policing to help chart a course to recovery from the pandemic.

Under the plans, the 12 areas in England will be ‘twinned’ with places facing similar challenges, expanding the programme’s reach.

Last November, the government announced £18m would be made available in 2020/21, and funding allocations for each area have now been confirmed.

LGA warning on closure of leisure facilities

Hundreds of leisure facilities could close permanently or be unable to reopen without urgent funding which would damage the nation’s health and undermine the government’s plans to tackle childhood obesity, the Local Government Association has warned.  

Councils are working closely with leisure centres and swimming pools in their areas as they look to try and reopen from this weekend. However, significant losses of income during the pandemic has left many leisure providers on the brink of financial collapse. 

The Government is set to announce plans to tackle the obesity crisis to get the nation fit and ready to deal with any second wave of Covid-19. But the LGA said that leisure facilities need urgent funding to cover loss of income, maintenance and utility costs.

The LGA also said the coronavirus pandemic has hit those from more deprived backgrounds and the black, Asian and minority ethnic community hardest, whether that be through deaths, digital poverty or a lack of accessibility to parks, private gardens and green spaces to exercise.

Children's commissioner calls for free childcare expansion

Government funded childcare for all children up to the age of five should be a cornerstone of the recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, according to the children’s commissioner for England.

Anne Longfield has made the recommendation in her Best Beginnings report, which calls for 30-hours a week of government-funded childcare for working families to be expanded to all children aged two to four.

She also wants to see all one-year-olds entitled to 15 free hours a week. This is currently offered to disadvantaged two-year olds and all three and four year olds.

The move is needed to improve the life chances of all children, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds, and support economic recovery as lockdown restrictions ease, Longfield said.

Teachers fear rise in child hunger

A survey by charity Magic Breakfast has found that two-thirds of teachers expect to see a rise in child hunger when schools return in September.

The survey found that 57 per cent of teachers anticipate there will be an increase in the number of children arriving at school hungry in September 2020, compared to September 2019, while in schools with above average levels of disadvantage, this rises to 64 per cent.

The majority of teachers surveyed also think that hunger will harm efforts to catch children up on the learning they missed out on during school closures. This rises to 79 per cent of teachers in schools with above average levels of disadvantage.

To address this, 86 per cent of teachers surveyed support a nationwide programme to ensure children at risk of hunger have access to a free breakfast during the school term.

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