Marcus Rashford has spent months battling with the government to ensure kids on free school meals do not go hungry during the Christmas break. They are children who belong to families whose parents are battling every day to make sure they do what they can to ensure their child has food on the table. These families live paycheck to paycheck trying to make every penny count. Often wondering what groceries they are going to be able to purchase that week.
To put this into perspective, 4.2 million children live in relative poverty. 3.7 million of them are in absolute poverty after housing costs leaving 2.4 million in complete poverty. If you are like some of the people I have spoken to about this, you will be screaming about the benefits system this country has in place. Yes, we have a benefits system, something I am thankful for each and every day but it does leave something to be desired if these children are slipping through the net.
72% of children who are living in poverty come from working households. 72%, let that sink in. 46% of children from ethnic minority backgrounds are now in poverty with 26% of children in poverty coming from white British families.
Make no mistake this is a government issue which they need to tackle. These children are born with a fate they will have to work day in and day out to try and get out of with very little support. It isn’t as simple as saying get a job. Having a job does not the gateway out of poverty many would like to think.
Childcare and housing are two things that impact a family’s budget regardless of how big the family unit is. The Labour government made reducing child poverty a priority. They created a strategy and investment in the children of the UK and as a result, child poverty fell by 600,000.
With the school voucher scheme, the amazing Marcus Rashford is brilliantly campaigning for is a solution to the immediate problem we have in this country. There is, however, long-term work needed in order to eradicate the need for such drastic measures. For instance, the Department of Education and the Department for Work and Pensions can work with schools or local councils to set up parent clinics to provide guidance from access to services to financial family planning.
The current government needs to be willing to make the necessary adjustments to the current benefits system to tackle this. It requires time, patience, inquiries, sitting down, and listening to the people who are in these situations earnestly with the determination to do the best they can to combat the issues they raise. Anything less is inhumane. The day I found out 322 MPs voting against Marcus Rashford campaign to provide meals to these children during the Christmas holidays sent a shiver up my spine. The complete lack of humanity baffles me to this day.
No one is under the illusion the vouchers are a long term fix to a complex inherent problem within our society but rather a short term financial release to help families navigate their way through an already difficult year. Children without food mean mood swings, lack of concentration, fatigue all of which be a stumbling block in their future.
In 2020 children should not have to suffer because of the situation life has placed them in, especially when there is the capacity to help. It really is that simple.
No, I am not speaking as a two-bit millennial who expects the world. I am however speaking as a product of growing up under a Labour government and the access this gave me. The solutions to problems like Child Poverty are complex. They include combating situations like addiction, living wage, and inherited ways of living. That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be fixed. We just have a government too cowardly to tackle it. Yes, I am thankful for the decision to provide free meal vouchers for children during the Christmas holidays has been overturned but this has to be the beginning. There is much more which needs to be done.