Since the Soft Drinks Industry Levy came into force in 2018 (popularly known as the Sugar Tax) it has had a huge impact. Public Health England reported that the tax has reduced the levels of sugar in soft drinks by 44%, it has also raised hundreds of millions of pounds.
In preparing for the legislation, the Government stated that “Every penny of England’s share of the spending raised by the Levy will go towards improving children’s health”. A new report by Sustain is trying to ensure transparency in how this money is spent, and sets out recommendations to make sure children see the biggest benefits.
In 2018-19, Levy income was allocated towards doubling the Primary PE & Sport Premium (from £160m to £320m), establishing a National School Breakfast Programme (up to £26m over two years, later extended for 2020-21 by another £11m), a one-year Healthy Pupils Capital Fund (£100m), and the Essential Life Skills Programme (£22m over two years).
In 2020, despite repeated requests by Sustain and others, The Department for Education has not yet publicly accounted for the entirety of money. There is currently a remaining £165 million for which the details of how it will be allocated to support children’s health have not been released. Millions of pounds are therefore unaccounted for.
Sustain’s report outlines how investing the funds raised from taxation of sugary drinks back into improving children’s health via schools is a triple win for reducing obesity, levelling children’s health inequalities and providing much-needed resource to schools and children’s food initiatives. They would like to see a multi-year funding commitment, allowing local authorities and schools to plan ahead to identify their most pressing funding needs.
Read the full report here.