I am determined to ensure that local kids don’t go hungry this Christmas. Crawley Borough Council is not the Education Authority for Crawley, consequently we do not know who is eligible for Free School Meals. We do know the overall figure was 2,511 back in January, but given the job losses which have taken place this year, we expect that in practice the numbers are significantly higher.
I have been speaking with people at our local Education Authority (West Sussex County Council) and with local headteachers, as the people who do have access to these records, to see what we can do to together to put alternative provision in place. With half-term starting tonight and having only found out on Wednesday evening the Government would not be continuing the scheme, it has not been possible to get things in place for this week but we will be ready for Christmas. If people want to help families struggling over the half-term break, I’d ask that they donate to local food charities such as The Easter Team, Open House and Giving Back Crawley.
The reality is that local authority finances have been decimated by COVID-19 and both local councils are having to make big cuts to keep services running, meaning we will need support from the local community through crowdfunding to finance these meals, although we hope to be able to at least part match-fund from a pot of funding which the council can only use for community issues. I would certainly hope large local businesses who have recently made many of the parents of these children redundant consider what support they can offer. A crowdfunding page is in the process of being set up and it will be publicised when it is live.
I know that lots of people in Crawley are currently setting up community initiatives around this, which is great. The goal is not to replace them, but to work together to ensure that every eligible family gets the food-support they need this Christmas. The Government has let down these children, I’m confident that Crawley’s community won’t.