Holiday Hunger.

Romford Labour’s Angelina Leatherbarrow today writes in the Havering Daily about the Government’s vote against free school meals for children during the half term.

On the 21st of October MP’s voted on whether children who receive free school meals, should have access to a decent daily meal during the holidays through to the half term, to help families feeling the worst impacts of the economic fallout of the Covid crisis. The Government – elected on a pledge to “level up” our communities voted against it. Their position is that free meals for children outside of term time are not necessary. Rightly, this has been the focus of a huge amount of TV and newspaper coverage after footballer Marcus Rashford raised the plight of children across the country. Marcus was given a CBE for his work to pressure the govt to provide holiday support through the summer, they have since ignored his campaign to extend this support through to next spring.

Around 30 % of the children living in Romford are living in poverty. They were in poverty before Covid and they are in an even more vulnerable position now.

Following 10 years of austerity, benefit cuts, the introduction of universal credit, more and more children are going hungry in our community and it should be a matter of shame for our politicians and leaders. 

The govt are trying to get away with sending us back to the Victorian age, by blaming parents for not being able to feed their children and they expect us to go along with that point of view. We have been conditioned for years to see poverty as somehow an indication of laziness and irresponsibility. That if someone else is struggling it’s because they haven’t worked hard enough. But the truth is, things are just not that straight forward. Most of the people using foodbanks nationally are in work, but on low and /or insecure wages. zero hour contracts and the “gig” economy mean you may have no income for days / weeks at a time, no sick pay or ability to take time off if your children are sick and now we can add to this, workers in pubs, cafes, small independent businesses who have been either laid off or put on 60%- 80% of their wages. These families still have to pay 100% rent, food bills, gas, electric.Mortgage break schemes have been ended, the government furlough scheme has ended and belated replaced with a support package which still leaves businesses and workers in Tier 2 areas in perilous situations. And do you know what? Even if a parent has made poor choices for whatever reason, its still not ok for us to stand back and watch a child go hungry. 

I hope the Covid crisis has shown that anyone of us could find ourselves in a situation where we go from being able to make ends meet to suddenly be unable to provide our families with the basics that we have taken for granted. Our taxpayersmoney can somehow go towards subsidising the food and drink that our MPs on their £80k + salaries enjoy in their parliamentary dining rooms not to mention their taxis home afterwards, but we balk at the idea of feeding kids. I’m not sure if we have gone back to the Dickensian 1880’s or the Thatcherite 1980’s but either way, its not ok. 

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