It is simply not right that children can go hungry in the UK – especially during a pandemic. The Government’s announcement of a grant scheme to fund food programmes this winter is much needed and very welcome. Local churches will continue to play a crucial role in delivering projects and ensuring that support reaches the families who need it – especially over the Christmas period.
Marcus Rashford has led a campaign which shows the power of personal stories in changing public attitudes and eventually national policy. Marcus’s own story was shared alongside many others, each demonstrating the damage that hunger and poverty can bring. In Parliament, the former President of the Methodist Church, Lord Griffiths, said that even after more than half a century he remembered the “mounting panic” in his family at the prospect of the holidays without free school meals, “not in our head but with our whole body”. As Churches, we believe no child should go through that experience.
The expansion of emergency food provision through foodbanks and vouchers cannot however be a long-term solution. We need a welfare system that is strong enough to hold back hunger. Today it does not provide this, and yet current plans are to remove the £20 a week uplift to Universal Credit next April. That vital lifeline must be kept.
As they’ve struggled to make ends meet, millions of families have been forced into debt by the pandemic. Our Reset The Debt campaign is calling for unrepayable debts to written off quickly and compassionately so that families have a secure foundation from which to build their own future.
Further action must be taken to ensure that children and families in poverty are supported not only temporarily, but in the long term.
Paul Morrison, Policy Advisor