The Speaker of the House of Keys has urged the government to re-evaluate its priorities.

Juan Watterson said this with respect to the piloted 2022 Summer Holiday and Activities Programme, which the government says won’t be taking place this year.

The programme provided children who receive free school meals access to a holiday activity and food programme over the summer holiday period free of charge.

It provided children with a nutritious meal, physical activity and social interaction.

In total 1,143 children attended a total of 85 sessions during the school holiday period. A total of £55,059.25 was issued to providers from the £90,000 fund.

Education Minister Julie Edge said in a recent written response: ‘The 2022 Summer Holiday Activity and Food Programme was a pilot scheme funded by the Cabinet Office, via the soft drinks levy.

‘A number of third sector providers put in successful bids for the funding in order to deliver the initiative.

‘As far as the Department of Education, Sport and Culture is aware, no funding has been allocated for the Summer Holiday Activity and Food Programme this year.

‘My department is not in the position to continue this scheme or any other scheme without any further funding being allocated. This will be considered, along with other departmental priorities, when compiling the department’s 2024/25 budget.’

Mr Watterson, who is one of Rushen’s MHKs, asked the written question.

He has since criticised the decision.

Mr Watterson told the Examiner: ‘It is disappointing that despite a successful trial that proved very good value, DESC seem unable to assist towards tackling holiday hunger.

‘The programme was less than the cost of a higher executive officer civil servant and supported 1,143 children.

He added: ‘In Tynwald’s last sitting we approved multi-million pound changes to encourage people to move here, such as extending childcare vouchers to the age of one, increasing child benefit for second children, but we are in danger of yet again leaving behind over a thousand children who are already here, all for £55,000, 0.04% of the Department of Education, Sport and Culture budget.

‘A lot of poverty cannot be seen, and with three weeks to go until the summer holidays, I urge government to re-evaluate its priorities.’