At the time of going to press, Boris Johnson had just announced a major u-turn over free school meal vouchers after an incredible campaign from England footballer Marcus Rashford.
Southwark has led the way in free school meals and holiday provision for some time now and this win, whilst making a huge difference to the 1.3 million children nationwide going hungry, is just one type of support many families desperately need.
Just as schools and shops reopen, and the furlough scheme is set to end, we will begin to move beyond the relatively insulated confines of our own personal lockdowns and emerge back into the outside world.
It’s going to be a shock to the system. The government’s package of financial support is – to rely on an overused phase- unprecedented in these times. But just because it’s like nothing we’ve ever seen in peacetime doesn’t mean it’s nearly enough to fuel us for the battle ahead.
Employers are still making redundancies, some companies kept going on furlough schemes will go bust. Landlords will want their rent. And, just when those lucky enough to be in work start to feel confident about venturing back to their jobs – school’s out and there’s six more weeks of childcare to arrange.
Hanging over all of this is the threat of a global recession and further waves of a killer virus that has already taken the lives of 41,969 people in the UK. Helping people get back in work in a way that keeps them and their families safe will be impossible unless those with school age children have added support during July and August. So many people rely on grandparents, other relatives, neighbours and friends, or nurseries and childminders for childcare – often in vulnerable or shielded groups. Holiday provision is always patchy. More than ever we now need more initiatives like the holiday hubs already set up in Southwark to ensure kids can get outside, learn and play while socially distancing – or have more support remotely for parents who are staying at home.
Otherwise there will be a huge number of parents expected to turn up to work but without childcare who fear losing their jobs if they don’t comply. And children with parents at home will face weeks stuck indoors – no different to lockdown at the peak of the crisis and certainly no holiday to speak of.