Catherine West, Labour’s MP for Hornsey and Wood Green, has used a recent Parliamentary debate to highlight the damning levels of child poverty, particularly in her area of Haringey.
In the debate, secured just before the Parliamentary recess, Ms West spoke at length about the inequalities she believes are rampant in society and which are a driving factor for child poverty, telling other MPs that “in this very city, the richest 1% live a gilded life, a handful of streets away from the most deprived neighbourhoods in the most unequal areas. We live on the same streets; we walk the same streets; but we inhabit different worlds.” The debate, attended by just one Conservative MP, took place soon after the Labour Party released figures showing that over 500,00 children in England became entitled to Free School Meals – given to the poorest families – last year, with Ms West using the debate to highlight an increase of 1,700 children in Haringey alone, making up some 20% of the Borough’s children.
The Labour Party has released its own “Children’s Recovery Plan”, which it claims will “help every child to bounce back from the pandemic with new opportunities to play, learn and develop post-Covid.” Part of the proposals unveiled by the party include funding for breakfast clubs and new activities for every child, quality mental health support in every school, and a commitment to ensure no child goes hungry. Commenting on her Party’s proposals, Ms West added “child poverty is a scar on the face of our society, and as I made clear in Parliament the potential of our economy means there should be absolutely no place for it. I’m pleased to be part of a Party which has a commitment to tackling this at its heart and I will continue working to rid Haringey of child poverty.”
Responding to Ms West’s debate, the Children’s Minister Vicky Ford stated MPs should not “play party political games with holiday activities and food”, but was challenged by other MPs present that not a single other Conservative MP attended to speak.
Labour’s plan, which reflects engagement with schools, parents and children, would deliver
- Breakfast clubs and new activities for every child:from breakfast clubs to sport, drama, book clubs and debating societies, a fully funded expanded range of extracurricular clubs and activities to boost time for children to play and socialise after months away from their friends.
- Quality mental health support in every school:give every child the support they need to transition back to school and manage personal challenges, with access to qualified in-school counselling staff alongside boosting wellbeing through extra activities;
- Small group tutoring for all who need it, not just 1%:make small group teaching available to all children who need it not just 1%, by reforming the Government’s failing tutoring programme to make sure no child falls behind because of pandemic disruption;
- Continued development for teachers: Teachers have had one of the toughest years of their careers – it is only by supporting them with training to stay on top of the latest knowledge and techniques that we can give every child a brilliant classroom experience;
- An Education Recovery Premium:support every child to reach their potential by investing in children who have faced the greatest disruption during the pandemic from early years to further education, and double the Pupil Premium for children in key transition years, delivering additional support for children who need it most;
- Ensure no child goes hungry:no child will go hungry with Labour, by extending free school meals over the holidays, including the summer break.