Fears Tory minister will be shown 'chocolate box picture' in Norfolk

Children and families minister Vicky Ford.

Children and families minister Vicky Ford. - Credit: Richard Townshend Photography

A government minister should see the “appalling realities” for poorer families, not a “chocolate box picture” when she visits Norwich holiday clubs, a local politician says.

Vicky Ford, children and families minister, will visit St William's Primary School in Thorpe St Andrew and Little Plumstead Village Hall on Monday, August 9.

Children doing activities

Active Norfolk has worked with schools and activity providers to create thousands of summer holiday club places. - Credit: PA

Hosted by Norfolk County Council, she will hear about the work the council is doing to support its children and young people and see children taking part in a range of holiday club activities, including forest schools, crafts and sports. 

The ministerial visit has been blasted as being "hypocritical" by opposition councillors and some charities providing help to struggling families.

Labour spokesmen for children and young people at Norfolk County Council, Mike Smith-Clare, said the minister needed to be shown a true picture of the challenges faced by families.  

“I hope the children’s minister will be shown the appalling realities still experienced by numerous young people, rather than the chocolate box picture their councillor colleagues are happy to promote,” he said.

Mike Smith-Clare

Mike Smith-Clare - Credit: Archant

“Kids are still going hungry; families are still living in the grip of crippling deprivation and lives are still being cut unnecessarily short because of postcode poverty.

“Having enough food to survive shouldn’t be championed as a successful element of a holiday fun scheme. It should be a given for any fully functioning society.”

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Some of the summer holiday places are being funded as part of the Big Norfolk Holiday Fun Scheme, known nationally as the Holiday Activities and Food programme, which supports those eligible for free school meals with holiday activities and healthy food.

Food parcels

Holiday Activities and Food programme supports those eligible for free school meals with holiday activities and healthy food. - Credit: PA

John Fisher, cabinet member for children's services, said: “We know the pandemic has caused increased hardship for many families and we will be discussing with the minister the challenges we are facing in Norfolk and how we can work together to support those in greatest need.”

The minister said she was “thrilled” to be visiting St William’s Primary School.

“Norfolk County Council’s work with schools, holiday clubs and activity providers to create thousands of places for children will be incredibly beneficial, and I’m really looking forward to discussing with local leaders how we can go further in our support for the children who need it most,” she said.