To Cllr Glen Sanderson, Leader Northumberland County Council
Copy to Daljit Lally, Cath McEvoy-Carr, Cllr Guy Renner-Thompson
Provision of free school meals and vouchers over the school holidays
We are writing on behalf of the Northumberland Labour Group and the families of Northumberland in need of support to ask the Council to provide free school meals or vouchers over the school holidays to children who qualify for them. This temporary response to the current Covid-19 crisis should be available up to and including the Easter holidays when it should be reviewed.
As you’re aware there has been an 18 per cent increase in children receiving free schools meals between March and October with the actual numbers going from 7,473 in March to 8,818 in October.
These families have been plummeted into needing free school meals through no fault of their own. The 18 per cent rise means 1,345 new children are now requiring free school meal support since the pandemic began and it is expected that this number will continue to rise.
Many families across our county suddenly cannot afford to pay bills and sustain normal lifestyles and are genuinely concerned about the future and feeding their children.
We should be showing them support during the school holiday and supporting these families over the coming months.
As you know, a number of councils, including our neighbouring councils of North Tyneside and Newcastle, have stepped in where the national government did not, to provide much needed support. We believe this is the right and decent thing for Northumberland County Council to do.
There has been overwhelming support offered from individuals and business in Northumberland who have stepped in, while this failing government shows how little it cares for struggling families.
As generous and selfless as this is, we believe we should not be putting extra pressure on individuals and businesses, many of whom are struggling themselves due to Covid-19 restrictions, to provide a vital lifeline when it is quite clear that government should respond.
We are aware that Northumberland County Council has its own financial pressures, however so do all the other councils who have stepped up to the mark and the government is telling us that they have provided funding to local government to deal with issues such as this.
We are also aware that this is not a long term, sustainable solution to child poverty in our county and we are happy to work with you to develop a much-needed strategy, however urgent action is needed on this issue now.
We look forward to your response
Susan Dungworth, Leader Labour Group
Scott Dickinson, Deputy Leader, Labour Group