I am determined to ensure that local kids don’t go hungry this Christmas. Crawley Borough Council is not the Education Authority for Crawley, consequently we do not know who is eligible for Free School Meals. We do know the overall figure was 2,511 back in January, but given the job losses which have taken place this year, we expect that in practice the numbers are significantly higher.
I have been speaking with people at our local Education Authority (West Sussex County Council) and with local headteachers, as the people who do have access to these records, to see what we can do to together to put alternative provision in place. With half-term starting tonight and having only found out on Wednesday evening the Government would not be continuing the scheme, it has not been possible to get things in place for this week but we will be ready for Christmas. If people want to help families struggling over the half-term break, I’d ask that they donate to local food charities such as The Easter Team, Open House and Giving Back Crawley.
The reality is that local authority finances have been decimated by COVID-19 and both local councils are having to make big cuts to keep services running, meaning we will need support from the local community through crowdfunding to finance these meals, although we hope to be able to at least part match-fund from a pot of funding which the council can only used for community issues. I would certainly hope large local businesses who have recently made many of the parents of these children redundant consider what support they can offer. A crowdfunding page is in the process of being set up and it will be publicised when it is live.
I know that lots of people in Crawley are currently setting up community initiatives around this, which is great. The goal is not to replace them, but to work together to ensure that every eligible family gets the food-support they need this Christmas. The Government has let down these children, I’m confident that Crawley’s community won’t.
Cllr Peter Lamb
Leader, Crawley Borough Council
Cllr Peter Lamb, Labour Leader of Crawley Borough Council, has called on the Government to fund free school meals throughout the holiday
Even before the pandemic, a third of Crawley’s children were growing up in poverty. Now, with more families in Crawley facing unemployment than ever before, the need to ensure children from low-income households are fed through the school holidays has never been greater.
Cllr Lamb has called on the government to extend free school meals into the school holidays, including the upcoming October half term and Christmas, to ensure no child goes hungry during the coronavirus pandemic.
On Wednesday, MP’s voted down a Labour Party motion which would have extended free school meals into the holiday period, meaning 2,511 children in Crawley are now at risk of going hungry over the holidays.
The October half term comes as millions of families face a furlough cliff-edge that could see up to 40% of Crawley’s working-age population rendered unemployed.
Cllr Lamb said:
“Crawley’s economy is suffering the impact of COVID-19 harder than anywhere else in the country, the government’s unwillingness to support the aviation sector having cost the town thousands of jobs with thousands more at risk. Now more than ever we need support for low-income families to ensure the mistakes of the government don’t force children to go hungry.”