Liberal Democrats in the New Forest have welcomed the news that Hampshire County Council will provide a funding package to food banks and charitable organisations to support vulnerable families and children. However, they say more must be done to prevent children going hungry at Christmas.
Following the Conservative Party's decision not to extend free school meals through the school holidays until Easter, which they had previously done earlier in the year, Lib Dem Councillors and Campaigners in the New Forest wrote to the leaders of Hampshire County Council and New Forest District Council urging them to step in and feed the 3000 local kids who are eligible for free school meals. They also set up a petition urging the local councils to take action.
This evening, the leader of Hampshire County Council announced that a funding package would be made available to food banks and charitable organisations during the October half term break only. This doesn't go far enough when Christmas is almost upon us and many local families are already at breaking point financially.
That's why the Lib Dems are calling for Hampshire County Council to guarantee that, should the Government remain committed to leaving 3000 hungry kids in the New Forest to fend for themselves, the Council will step in and set up a school meals voucher scheme over the Christmas period so that no New Forest child goes hungry over Christmas. If the situation allows, this could then be extended until Easter.
New Forest Liberal Democrats Community Spokesperson, Councillor Caroline Rackham, said:
"It's a disgraceful situation for a country so economically advanced that we need food banks at all. Ensuring every child is fed shouldn't need charities and volunteers. This is a selfish act by the government and needs more than sticking-plaster politics. Our children and their families deserve more respect."
New Forest Liberal Democrats Housing Spokesperson, Councillor Jack Davies, said:
"I welcome the Council's announcement of support for food banks and charitable organisations which have stepped up when the government failed to do its duty to our kids.
"However, this doesn't go far enough. We need to guarantee that no New Forest child goes hungry over Christmas. That's why the Liberal Democrats are calling on the County Council, they can work with District and Borough Councils if they like, to set up a school meals voucher scheme to run over the Christmas holidays. Portsmouth City Council have done it. There is no reason why Hampshire County Council can't do it unless they're scared to rock the boat."