Noreen Khan is an inspirational lady. A single mum who found herself with very limited options and very little help as a single parent household, so decided to change things for herself and for other mums around her.
Noreen set up an organisation called ‘Neesie’ after her son that helps single mums. She works closely with her community and the Home Office to provide support for struggled one parent families.
Today Noreen writes in the Havering Daily:
The proportion of people living in poverty who are in a one parent home is hitting a record high, according to ONS figures and rise in new Universal Claimants. In recent weeks we have learned of the rising levels of unemployment having resulted in further gaps in poverty and people living below the living standards thresholds.
There seems to be no let up with the impact of Covid being a further indicator of the contribution of poverty not only food and fuel but digital too.
Lockdown has created a stark digital divide in the UK. Over 2 million households have no access to the internet and tens of millions of people are reliant on pay-as-you-go services to make phone calls or access healthcare, education and benefits online.
In our recent campaign, Neesie has written to the Government, warning of the stark realities and warning that the digital exclusion from vulnerable groups living in the most deprived and poorest neighbourhoods will have a devastating and catastrophic effect upon the country.
The impact on educational attainment and economic prosperity needs to be acted upon now and with investment.
We are witnessing households having to choose to balance food against purchasing of data for the phone. The need to maintain essential communication for benefit claims is a reality.
Additionally, we have heard of stories of single parents rationing their groceries to be able to purchase credit so that their child can access essential home-schooling resources.
A mother recently told us that she used to earn £124 per week and would spend £10 for a pay as you go top up. Now during lock down, she is finding herself spending over £40 per week, just so that she can support her daughter through GCSE studies. This means for three days of the week she is effectively having to eat rationed means at least once a day.
What we need from the Government is positive sustainable solutions to get the major internet providers to remove data caps on broadband, not just during these times of the coronavirus pandemic but permanently with the neighbourhoods of high deprivation and poverty.
As well as Lone Parents, vulnerable groups like the elderly people, asylum seekers and refugees are hit hardest by digital poverty.
Our recent survey with over 1000 Lone Parents concluded that digital poverty not only impacts on health and well-being, but also added to isolation and loneliness. More and more are reliant upon food parcels and use of food banks. Over 63% have no access to call for help or 38% were not sure how to access emergency food rations.
Neesie is a small community voluntary group and with little to no support from authorities, took the decision based on a moral compass to help feed these vulnerable groups. Our Covid Emergency Fund has enabled us to support over 400 vulnerable households during this period of lock down.
The disconnect between the authorities and the vulnerable communities is apparent and positive leadership is needed immediately or risk the public financial purse further increasing in the long run.