4 December 2020
What is Talking Points?
Cambridge News asks a representative of each local political party to answer a question on a local issue in just 300 words. The answers are then published in the physical copy of the Cambridge News every week. Here, we share our response to the question.
Today's question: Are the local authorities better placed to distribute the Government winter package than schools?
The Government have announced that ‘children and families will get extra support this winter, with councils given new funding to ensure vulnerable households do not go hungry or without essential items’ with at least ‘80% earmarked to support with food and bills’. It is welcome to hear that the Conservative government regards food as essential.
Cambridge City Foodbank provided 5,862 food vouchers in 2018, with Abbey and Kings Hedges being the wards with the highest numbers. And the number issued in 2018 is double the number issued in 2015.
This must be reassuring for a nine-year-old Oliver, reported as resident in a school - where the boys were ‘issued three meals of thin gruel a day, with an onion twice a week, and half a roll on Sundays.’ ‘Desperate with hunger, and reckless with misery’ he had the temerity to ask, ‘Please, sir, I want some more.’
The progress from the time of Charles Dickens to now is that the Healthy Start scheme ‘supports pregnant women or those with children under four who have a low income and are in receipt of benefits to buy fresh fruit and vegetables.’ Healthy Start payments set to rise from £3.10 to £4.25 a week from April 2021. In Cambridge I could get the bus to the supermarket. And then stand there without any money. This limited support has led to extending free school dinners for hungry older children in the school holidays and the doubling of families requesting food from Trussel Trust food banks during 2020.
Questioning whether Local Authorities or schools are better placed to distribute the crumbs from the table is irrelevant. Don’t we need a national policy of a living minimum wage and secure employment and fair remuneration for the work that supports us all?
Our response was written by Richard Potter. Richard has lived in Cambridge for the last 27 years. He has worked for Cambridgeshire County Council, the Office for National Statistics and the Civil Service in roles to provide information on which policy decisions can be made, work he still does. He has a commitment to fairness in a world we can live in.