Daily roundup: Universal credit, library closures and junk food

Neil Puffett
Monday, September 10, 2012

A charity warns Universal Credit will leave poor families out of pocket, the Children's Laureate condemns library closures and an investigation into "junk food" on sale in academy schools, all in the news today.

Poorer families are to lose out on childcare help according to Children's Society report. Image: Phil Adams
Poorer families are to lose out on childcare help according to Children's Society report. Image: Phil Adams

The country’s poorest families will be hit hardest by changes to childcare support under the Universal Credit benefit system, a report by The Children’s Society has found. The report estimates that low-income families will lose an average of £23 a week from help with childcare costs. Chief executive Matthew Reed said: “Poverty is the harsh reality for hundreds of thousands of families across the UK and childcare is key to making it possible for parents to stay in work. By cutting vital support, it is jeopardising our children’s chances of a better life.”

The government has come under fire from the Children’s Laureate for failing to take action to keep libraries open. Julia Donaldson has written an open letter, published in the Independent on Sunday, to the new Culture Secretary Maria Miller condemning library closures. Pointing to figures showing that nearly 250 UK libraries are under threat of closure, have been closed, or have left council control since April this year, she raised concerns about the effect of cuts and closures on children’s reading and criticised the government's "refusal to intervene".

One in three academy schools are selling unhealthy junk food that is banned in maintained schools, according to an investigation by Channel 4’s Dispatches programme. A series of Freedom of Information requests by the programme found that out of the 108 academies that responded, 37 were selling at least one food or drink product that was not permitted before they converted to academy status including chocolate and energy drinks such as Red Bull.

Parents will get help to make sure their children are not accessing suicide-related websites under a new Suicide Prevention Strategy, published by the Department of Health today. The strategy will also focus on supporting bereaved families and preventing suicide amongst at-risk groups. It has been backed with up to £1.5m funding for new research into suicide.

Teachers across Scotland are to receive training so they can fully include disabled young people in school sport. The Scottish Government, is providing £125,000 for the training. Sport minister Shona Robison said: "During London 2012, we’ve seen how much sport can add to people’s lives, that is why it’s so important that all children have the chance to take part". Meanwhile a survey by the Local Government Association has found that councils have had to draft in extra lifeguards, coaches and leisure centre staff to cope with a surge in demand as a result of the Olympics.

Some four million fewer people will be subjected to checks in order to work with children and vulnerable adults after new vetting and barring rules came into effect today. Under the new system, being implemented by the Home Office, those who are supervised when working with children and vulnerable adults will not need to be checked.

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