An equal start…

An equal start... NHS_Training_in_Primary_Care_General_Practice

How have we come to this?

How have we ended up with a footballer, having a row with the Prime Minister about kids not getting enough to eat and the importance of free school meals.

The footballer, Marcus Rashford, is from humble beginnings and reminds us how his family depended on free school meals and food banks.

BoJo, on the other hand, probably only went without when cook forgot to stock up on Cartwright and Butler horse radish sauce, for the Sunday rib-of-beef.

How have we come to this…

… because of poverty.  The Childrens’ Society tell us there are four million children who live in poverty.

That’s almost a third of kids in the UK… around nine in the average classroom. The Society predicted the number was set to rise to five million by 2020… 

… and here we are, in 2020, the economy in tatters and two thirds of children, living in poverty, have at least one parent in work.

A couple with two children, living in poverty has less than £58 per day, that’s £15 each, after housing costs to pay for food, bills, childcare, transport, household items, clothes and other expenses like school trips or children’s activities.

The same family, on average income in the UK, has about £96 per day, £24 each, to cover these things.

A child is said to be living in poverty when they are in a family with an income below 60% of the UK’s average, after adjusting for family size.  

Rising living costs, low wages and cuts to benefits are creating a perfect storm with more children falling into the poverty trap.

Add to that Covid furlough schemes, job losses and cut backs, we don’t have to ask… how have we come to this.

In term time, there is a scheme where 1.3 million children get free school meals.  Whilst the schools are closed, families have been able to claim weekly shopping vouchers, worth £15 a week per child.

Headteachers have warned that even with the vouchers, some parents will struggle to feed their children.

Two years ago, I visited a school that had started a ‘walk-a-mile-a-day’ scheme, as part of a drive to keep the kids fit.  The teachers who joined in had all lost weight and they loved it!

In a quiet moment, after our mile, I sat with the the head teacher who told me most of the children came to the breakfast club, +80% had free lunches and the after-school and homework clubs provided tea and a toastie.

She knew she was feeding the majority of the kids in her catchment area.  She reminded me; one in 50 UK households used food banks, where around 3m food parcels were given out. 

How have we come to this?

Two thirds of the children at the school, were living in poverty, with at least one parent in work.

During lockdown schools started making their own arrangements.  Providing meals for collection or delivery themselves.  HMG’s voucher system was designed to help, where that was not possible.

Rashford has done his bit, raising £20m, to supply 3m meals for vulnerable people.  He wanted HMG to do its bit.

What is BoJo doing?  Trying to balance the books, that’s what.  He has to.  

The expectation was, as more schools open, so will their kitchens and food parcels would be more widely accesible.  Vouchers remain available.  

Plus, £63 million has been put into a welfare assistance scheme to be used at the discretion of local authorities, in their summer holiday meals and activity programmes. 

In extra time, it ended up an away win for Rashford.  BoJo didn’t come out for the second half.  The scheme will continue through the summer.

Rushford said; ‘Look what we can do when we come together.‘  

Populism had slipped the winner into the net. 

How have we come to this?  

A fragile economy, uncertain work, rising costs, the prospect of huge unemployment in the autumn and a patchwork benefits and welfare system… not fit for purpose.

All this could have been avoided.  

Scrap the whole benefits system and offer an unconditional monthly wage.  A Citizen’s Income.  Finland piloted it in 2017.  Netherlands have a Know-What-Works scheme.  Livorno in Italy followed suit.  Ontario piloted it.  France, China and Cyprus all doing it.

No country that depends on poverty and charity to balance its books can claim to be run for the benefit of its citizens.  

No government, nutmegged by a footballer, can do anything but score an own goal.

No nation can promise equal outcomes but we can promise an equal start.

News and Comment from Roy Lilley
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Reproduced at by kind permission of Roy Lilley.