Debbie Andre shares this latest news on behalf of the Island Independents, in her own words. Ed
The Island Independents are calling for prompt action and a coordinated effort by the administration in response to the Island MP, Bob Seely’s vote against the provision of free school meals in all school holidays to those families who qualify.
In response to the current pandemic, 26 of our 33 Town and Parish councils responded and set up Community Hubs, linking in with a central IOW Council helpline, coordinated by Community Action IOW.
Ongoing support for hubs
These hubs still remain and are the perfect vehicle to respond to ongoing requests for help and support from residents at grass roots level.
The Island Independents want to see these hubs being given the resources that they need to continue working with local organisations to target the help and support where it is most needed.
Peacey-Wilcox: “Parents busting a gut to stay off benefits”
Cllr Lora Peacey-Wilcox, Member for Cowes Medina, had this to say:
“I’ve spoken at length to my local primary head. She knows each child and family so truly knows those in need. It’s not just that the FSM kids are going without, there are those parents busting a gut to stay off benefits and missing out on any help as they are the wrong side of the eligibility criteria but still border line poverty.
“Free life skills classes to learn to cook on a budget would be one way to help to provide a more long-term solution. It’s a complex issue and needs a solution that recognises all of the issues.”
Fuller: Tighter safety net desperately needed
Cllr Paul Fuller, Member for Cowes West and Gurnard added:
“Measures taken in response to Covid-19 have had a devastating impact on families. What is so desperately needed is a tighter safety net in place.
“With our circumstances locally such as extended school holidays and our seasonal and temporary economy we are asking for more support to reflect Islanders needs.”
The Group have written an open letter to Bob Seely MP, denouncing his decision to vote against the proposal to fund school meals throughout all school holidays and urging him to lobby ministers to provide the necessary funding to local authorities.
The letter sent to Bob Seely reads as follows:
I’m writing to you on behalf of the Island Independents to publicly denounce your decision to vote against the proposal to fund free school meals throughout all of the school holidays, not just during the summer.
We do not feel that this view is representative of the residents that you serve and feel strongly that there are some issues that should transcend National Politics and should not be subject to a party whip.
The latest figures for child poverty show the amount at 7,215, for 2018/19. This is 32.7 per cent of children. The UK average is 30 per cent. The fallout effects of the pandemic will only add to this figure which has already increased since 2014/15.
We see this as a much wider issue. Due in no small part to years of austerity measures, there are too many families falling through the gaps. They don’t satisfy the criteria for free school meals, but they are struggling to make ends meet and their children are still going hungry.
Local authorities are best placed to deliver local solutions through our strong community networks and we call upon you to call on government ministers to ensure that the necessary funding is given to local authorities to enable them to deliver to those who need it most, especially our children.
Cllr Debbie Andre
Leader of the Island Independents and Member for Sandown North
Image: © With kind permission of Allan Marsh