Will Forster

Lib Dem Spokesperson for Woking and Councillor for South Woking Learn more

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Lib Dems call for County Council to end child hunger

by willforster on 1 December, 2020

We have all become more aware of the need for free school meals in the last few months, but child food poverty did not start with the covid pandemic.

That is why my Lib Dem colleagues and I have called on Surrey County Council to take steps to address this growing problem across the county.

Surrey is a comparatively wealthy county, but this generalisation hides a number of uncomfortable truths about the level of poverty experienced by those living in some of its poorer areas.  Some families are already struggling to put food on the table for children in a county where housing costs are four times less affordable than the national average and are amongst the highest in the country.

The highly publicised campaigns this year to extend the provision of free school meals to cover holiday periods has brought the issue to public attention.  Even before the full economic impact of the pandemic is known, the number of children eligible for free school meals in Surrey was 15,115, an increase of 14.1% from 2019.

This number will undoubtedly rise in the wake of the pandemic where the increase in the number of benefits’ claimants in Surrey in July has increased by 313% in 12 months.  By August this year the number of families on Universal Credit had risen in some parts of the county by more than 250% compared to the number in February 2020.

Last year, Lib Dem Councillors in Guildford led a cross-party review into the extent of the problem in that borough and found that in three neighbourhoods, approximately 33% of children were already living in food poverty.  The report also highlighted there were 25 neighbourhoods across Surrey that featured in the top third of the most deprived areas in England.

The situation post pandemic will only get worse, so the County Council needs to start working on practical solutions now.  Which is why this time next week, County Councillors will debate the Lib Dem motion to reduce food poverty in the most vulnerable children.

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