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Tackling the big questions on child poverty: why do we all have a part to play?

Tackling the big questions on child poverty: why do we all have a part to play?

19th November 2020

With increasing awareness around child food poverty and the recent announcement by the Government to fund holiday provision throughout 2021, there were a lot of questions and myths around child food poverty raised. This blog series will tackle some of those, while also explaining why TLG’s Box of Hope campaign is still so important this winter. 

In the first two blogs, we looked into what can cause families to fall into poverty and whose responsibility it is.  

In this third blog we will look into the question: why is TLG’s Box of Hope campaign, and other charities work supporting children, still needed now the Government have announced additional support? Why do we all have a part to play?

In November, after pressure from individuals, organisations and MPs, the Government committed to a package of measures to support children and families facing food insecurity and other challenges during the current crisis.  

The package includes £170m COVID-19 Winter Grant scheme, expansion of the Holidays, Activities and Food (HAF) scheme, increasing Healthy Start Payments and additional funding for charities. For more information about the measures, click here.  

With the Government now committing to holiday provision for children on Free School Meals throughout 2021, some people may be wondering whether charities, communities and others still have a role to play. 

 The short answer is yes. Absolutely. 

The support vulnerable families need often goes beyond what the Government has outlined in the provision. 

As mentioned in our previous blog, there is a huge difference between the number of children eligible for FSM and the number of children living in poverty. Just over 15% of children are eligible for FSM (Department for Education 2019) but an estimated 20% of children are living in relative poverty, rising to 30% after housing costs (House of Commons Library, 2020). These statistics show that the criteria for FSM urgently needs to be looked into and expanded to reach all children living in poverty. Until that change is made, charities, churches and community groups - like TLG Make Lunch and TLG Box of Hope - will continue to support the families who are in poverty but are unable to access the holiday provision.

The causes of poverty are multi-complex. Similarly, the effects of poverty are multi-complex. There is more to poverty than just a lack of money. TLG partner churches regularly comes across families facing additional issues such as: energy poverty, isolation, poor nutrition, lack of opportunity and physical, mental and emotional health challenges,. 

TLG Make Lunch, TLG Box of Hope and other community responses have always been about more than just food, they do so much more. TLG’s programmes have a big focus on wellbeing and comprehensive support, addressing the wider issues faced by families (such as the above factors) in addition to the provision of the food that is desperately needed. 

One key example of the impact of poverty is on utilities. Across the UK, many families on a low income will make a daily choice between heating or eating – a choice that is even more burdensome as families are left inside their homes more than ever under current restrictions.  Providing additional food for these families, even above and beyond national provision, means that they can prioritise paying for fuel to heat their homes and cook the food, along with other necessary costs, so children are kept warm and fed. 

Another issue many families in poverty face is isolation. This has been further exacerbated in lockdown where they are cut off from other support networks they usually rely on. As we addressed in a previous blog, many also wait for a long period before asking for help – not wanting to admit they are struggling and worried about the response they will receive - further adding to their isolation as they carry the heavy burden of poverty alone. However, when they do reach out they find a community willing to share their load. TLG programmes centre around offering struggling families a community, with a cup of tea and a listening ear always on hand. 

Case study: J was a full-time carer for her daughter M and was struggling on a low-income. When they first attended TLG Make Lunch they found a safe place for M to play and make friends. It also meant J had an opportunity for brief respite each week, where she was able to sit and have a brew with other parents, knowing M was safe and having fun. 

Case study: A TLG Box of Hope partner received a donation from Next, meaning they could provide families with much-needed warm clothes as well as food. The club is embedded in a much larger community centre, allowing them to sign post people to further support, including support with housing and overcoming addictions among other things.  

When lockdown first hit, TLG had to very quickly consider how to adapt our programmes of community support to fit with the new restrictions. How can we bring hope and connection without being able to meet face to face?

Our partner churches soon discovered that a doorstep visit to drop off boxes of hope was about more than meeting the immediate need of food insecurity – the connection they were bringing in this way meant so much to the families they were journeying with.

Case study: Prior to lockdown, one of our newer Make Lunch clubs had been struggling to connect with large numbers of families. While it might have been expected that the added challenge of new restrictions might exacerbate this, actually, as they adapted to meet the need in their community, they found their referrals and connections growing. They were able to deliver food parcels and cooked food to many families across the area. As many families were also facing isolation in lockdown, they included craft and activities packs and even an invite to a family Zoom quiz which some of the families attended. 

Case study: TLG Box of Hope Coordinator: ‘some people have struggled from a poverty of connection. Some of the most vulnerable people we serve are completely isolated from their families, neighbours or even the wider community. It has been lovely to see where some of those gaps have been filled by people taking time out to think of others.’   

Our Box of Hope programme is designed to be flexible to enable churches to meet the needs of their community. They are encouraged to include: food for the family, other essential supplies such as cleaning products, activities for the children (including wellbeing activities) and information for the parents about what other local support is available. Many are also including recipes in their boxes, providing the food in the recipe, so the family can make that recipe together. Some are also providing hot food for the families or ready-made meals that just need heating.  

Many of the recipes provided for the meals also encourage the children to get safely involved with the cooking too, providing quality family time while teaching the children valuable life skills. 

Case study: When R and S attended their local TLG Make Lunch club, they were not only given hot food but also found a community. They were provided with recipes of how to cook on a budget and the children got involved with the cooking at the club. Their children are now able to cook things independently at home and love taking part.  

Case study: D was worried after his dad lost his job. However, he was excited to receive a recipe and ingredients pack in their Box of Hope. D and his brother helped make a sweet potato tagine which they all enjoyed. 

As we know first-hand that the need is so great and so complex, we will also continue to support families, alongside recent commitments from the Government, throughout the winter period. Local churches partnering with TLG are able to help families through our programmes, including our Box of Hope campaign which is providing emergency food and wellbeing packages to families across the UK. To find out more about our Box of Hope campaign, including how you can play your part, click here

Beth Prescott

Beth Prescott

Before coming to TLG, Beth worked as a Fundraising Project Manager for poverty-relief charity Christians Against Poverty. Beth also has experience in the political sector, having worked for a Government Minister. She was one of the youngest Parliamentary candidates in the country in the 2015 and 2017 General Elections, narrowly missing out on a seat in Parliament in 2017. Beth is a season ticket holder at Huddersfield Town and enjoys hiking through the Yorkshire countryside followed by a local ale in the pub.

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