Councillors have pledged that no child should go hungry as they approved cutting the number of people helped by a holiday hunger programme over a lack of funds.

West Dunbartonshire Council has currently spent more than £600,000 on their Holiday Hunger Programme, but between now and Easter 2022 expect to spend another £500,000.

Some funding from the Scottish Government is only provided for those eligible as a result of deprivation, however – and now the council has agreed to bring their payments in line with that criteria.

In Scotland, all children in early years establishments and Primary 1-3 are entitled to free school meals with the universal offer extended to include Primary 4 in August 2021 and Primary 5 in January 2022. 

In 2019, the council agreed to implement a holiday hunger fund which increased the provision of meals and social activities for school children outside term time throughout West Dunbartonshire.

The local authority had been offering an alternative holiday payment to parents of all children in Early Years establishments and as a universal offer to parents of all children in Primary 1-3. 

An update was brought before the educational services committee last week.

Labour councillor Martin Rooney said: “There is obviously an issue with sustainability if the Scottish Government is unable to provide us the money.

“If we agree with the recommendations that we target the people most in need, we are going to have all these people who have had the holiday payment and expectations that they will receive it again in the future.

“There are a lot of people struggling who might just miss out on the programme so I don’t think this is as clear cut as it seems. I would like some more information.”

Senior education officer Claire Cusick informed the councillor there was an equality impact assessment and that parents in need were given the right support through family support and outreach workers. 

The aim is to make sure that children who need food over the holiday period get it. 

Chairwoman councillor Karen Conaghan said: “I do know that our staff, particularly through the pandemic, were very quick to respond to ensure our children were fed at home.

“Anyone who was in doubt about getting a free school meal was provided for.

“We don’t want to see any child going hungry.”