The ‘Hungry Children’ headline is not hyperbole

Today this story, claiming more children than ever before will be going hungry as a result of the toxic combination of rising prices and falling benefits and frozen salaries, appeared in the Independent: http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/health-news/look-…

It’s not a hysterical exaggeration. Maybe too many over-polished Dickens adaptations have made us a nation that feels sanguine about hoardes of hungry ragamuffins, cheekily, chirpily fending for themselves.

It’s not OK.

I don’t work in a London borough where some of the families that are most stretched by the Govt’s pitiless attack on social security can be found, but in my own area, which is fairly affluent, there are already families where children are going hungry, and there will be more.

Only this week I found myself discussing the expected impact of the latest housing and benefit regulations with a member of our tenants services team. Not known for sentimentality, (stock phrase on reviewing a property not meeting basic living standards: “They’d kill for this in Lewisham”) his concern for the children and young people in some of the more disadvantaged parts of the borough was all the more shocking for being unusual.

We were working together with a colleague from the early intervention team to identify families who would need additional support to adjust to the changes. The tenants services officer was clear that many families could not hope to cover the gap that would open up between their benefits and the ‘market’ rent; that other families would be financially penalised for so-called ‘under-occupancy’ despite a dearth of properties of the ‘right’ size to accommodate them.

The early intervention colleague outlined the number of families where children arrive at school hungry. And the number of families already surviving on food parcels.

Working steadily through the implementation dates of the legislation, and considering the implications for our most vulnerable families, we can see that by 18 months the situation for some families will be all but impossible.

At this point we don’t know what we will be able to do to make sure that all the children of our borough can eat enough every day to be able to grow, and learn, and stay healthy, and have a bit of energy left over for some childhood fun. Our levels of child poverty are pretty low. What will they do in Newham, Tower Hamlets, Southwark, Hackney?

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