Coventry kids going hungry over summer holidays

Coventry kids going hungry over summer holidays

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The following article was sent to us by Nicky Downes, a local teacher and equalities secretary for Coventry NUT.

There will be many children in Coventry counting down the days until they return to school in September. We all assume that children love the freedom of the holidays but if you’re hungry then there is little pleasure in each day.

Teachers in Coventry often have a packet of biscuits in their cupboard and many will have provided a bowl of cereal for a child that has gone without breakfast. At least for all children in Key Stage 1 there is a free hot meal to look forward to at lunchtime during the term. In fact as reported by the Cov Telegraph this week 8368 students in the city are entitled to free school meals. That’s one in every ten children.

Come the holidays free school meals are not available. For some families finding the cost of providing meals for their children for the six week holiday can be a struggle. The Tressell Trust which runs many of Coventry’s foodbanks reported a 17% rise in use over last year’s summer holidays. It is likely to be as high or if not higher this year.

We live in the sixth richest country and still some of our city’s children go hungry over the summer. Despite knowing that for many a free meal in the middle of the day is essential, the Tory government wanted to end free school meals for Key Stage 1 and were quite rightly forced to backtrack. No families should be reliant on foodbanks to fill the gap. It’s a national disgrace.

Coventry Tory councillor attacks benefit claimants

Coventry Tory councillor attacks benefit claimants

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Cllr Julia Lepoidevin (Woodlands)

A Tory councillor in Coventry has attacked benefit claimants during a full council meeting – after previously calling food bank users “selfish”.

Cllr Julia Lepoidevin, who represents Woodlands ward and is shadow cabinet member for children’s services, claimed that “What drives families into poverty is more than just income measures. It is addiction, family breakdown, domestic abuse, debt, leaving school with no qualifications. Give an addict an increase in benefit and it will be spent on the addiction, create further debt, cause mental health issues and break up families.”

While no-one would deny that the causes of poverty can be complex, Cllr Lepoidevin deliberately chose to attack a tiny minority of vulnerable people rather than accepting that many ordinary people will be forced into poverty by her party’s benefit cuts. Labour councillors rightly attacked her for these disgraceful comments – unfortunately, they are passing on these cuts at a local level and they are hurting Coventry people with council tax rises.

This is not Cllr Lepoidevin’s first attack on working class people – in 2014, she called food bank users “selfish” and claimed they spend money on drugs and alcohol rather than food and rent.

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Sarah Smith (left) protesting against the eviction of a bedroom tax victim

Sarah Smith, Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) candidate in Woodlands ward, said the comments were “appalling”. “Not content with just making these cuts, Cllr Lepoidevin wants to rub salt in the wound. I will continue to campaign against her and any other councillors who want to attack ordinary people.”

Coventry Tory Brands Food Bank Users “Selfish”

Coventry Tory Brands Food Bank Users “Selfish”

A Coventry food bank

A Coventry food bank

In 2013-14 almost a million people in the UK were supported by food banks, over 17,000 of them in Coventry. The majority of people using food banks had been affected by benefit cuts or sanctions imposed due to Government austerity measures. Despite the numbers of people forced to rely on food banks, at a recent Coventry Council meeting, Tory councillor Julia Lepoidevin claimed that some food bank users in Coventry are “selfish” and choose to spend money on drugs or alcohol rather than food.

However, when 50 Coventry people a day are being referred to food banks, there are clearly issues other than addiction causing people to go hungry. Labour cllrs angrily heckled Cllr Lepoidevin’s remarks – however, the welfare policies advocated by Labour leader Ed Miliband, such as cutting benefits for under-21s and an overall commitment to stick with Tory spending plans, would lead to far more people relying on charities for food. Coventry used to be a city renowned for its car factories – now we’re renowned for our food banks. People across the country are being left to starve as a result of austerity policies – we need to organise to fight for decent jobs and homes for all.