MORE companies and communities have stepped forward to help families who are living in poverty as footballer Marcus Rashford’s campaign has been uplifted again.

Last week, Conservative MPs took a grilling from the public after voting down a motion to extend free school meals across the half term period, sparking an effort from communities to offer free services to children across the country.

In East Lancashire, families are being offered free meals, free haircuts and help towards school uniforms to help those who are struggling financially amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Cawl Terrace salon in Rawtenstall is offering free haircuts to children over the half term.

Salon owner Matt Hesketh said: “We can’t offer free food and we can’t offer masses of things but it’s something we can give back to the community.

“It was just something I thought we could do right now. It’s open to everybody, not just hard up kids. Or for parents who aren’t working.”

In Rossendale, The Raft Foundation - Rossendale Food Bank has noticed an increase in families seeking help. Volunteer organiser Caroline Collins has been inspired by the Manchester United footballer’s work and said more needs to be done to tackle the underlying issues.

The foundation supply nappies, pet food and toiletries in their parcels to ‘give families a break’. They work 365 days a year to help families in need but are touched to see how others in the community are now helping.

She said: “It’s heartening to see a lot of people coming together and helping out neighbourhoods. Marcus is a young man and massive inspiration. His other point about the need to look at the underlying issues that affect people’s experience of poverty - not just food poverty but poverty as a whole.

“There needs to be some very clear strategic work to address what is causing this ongoing problem of poverty which, if anything, we are seeing increasing.”

According to research at Loughborough University by The Children’s Society, 39.1% of children in Blackburn are living in poverty.

County Councillor Azhar Ali, for Nelson East, has sent an email to Lancashire County Council leader Geoff Driver on behalf of local leaders across Lancashire including Cllr Mark Townsend and Cllr Miles Parkinson.

He asks how Lancashire County Council is working to help those in need of free school meals during the school holidays and how the assessment is being made for hunger in deprived areas.

He said: “There is no child that does not deserve a warm place that they can call home with enough food on the table to eat.”

Blackburn with Darwen Council is working with the community and businesses in the borough to tackle half-term hunger.

Councillor Mohammed Khan, Leader of Blackburn with Darwen Council, said: "These kind and generous community groups and organisations are making sure no child goes hungry during the school holidays and we give our huge thanks to them.

"The Council will work for them in any way we can to help. Sadly, child hunger during school holidays is an issue in the borough as it is across the country.

"It is a shame that the Government did not continue its scheme from the summer, when meals were provided to the most vulnerable during the school holidays, but is it amazing to see the whole community come together to help when it is needed most.

"We can not allow our children to go hungry, and rest assured we will do whatever we can to make sure this doesn’t happen.

"I am so grateful, as ever, for the wonderful people we have in this borough and the good we all do when we work together."

Another way parents are receiving help in Hyndburn is with school uniform ­— often an expense many parents dread each year.

St Christopher’s C of E School in Accrington is offering a pay as you can uniform service to help parents whose children are growing out of their clothes.

Cidari Multi Academy Trust who operate seven schools in East Lancashire, including St Silas Church of England Primary Academy in Blackburn, are providing vouchers to children who receive free school meals during half term.

Chief Executive, Peter Ashworth said: “Our families and local communities have been put under incredible strain throughout the pandemic, and the region we serve has never significantly recovered since the first wave of lockdown measures.

“The health, wellbeing and welfare of everyone linked to our academies is a priority. With Tier 3 restrictions now in place, many of our families are suffering real financial hardship and we see evidence every day that child food poverty is a real issue.

“This impacts greatly on the mental and physical wellbeing of parents and children and we have a moral and ethical obligation to step in and support in any way we can.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Health Secretary Matt Hancock said that the £63m in funding given to councils across the country is to help in these ways, by providing children with a meal.

The Government said the funding which was dispensed on 10 July was expected to last around 12 weeks - however it has now been longer since that funding was provided.