Neil Coyle visited Central Southwark Community Hub’s Family Summer Holiday Club last week to meet families and their children who struggle to make ends meet during the school holidays and thank volunteers for their hard work.
The club at St Paul’s Church in Walworth’s Lorrimore Square has been supporting 100 families with arts and crafts, storytelling and other fun activities during the school summer holidays – including a free, cooked lunch.
Many families across Southwark are at risk of ‘holiday hunger’ during the weeks when their children are without free school meals.
The Bermondsey and Old Southwark MP, who dropped in last Wednesday, August 7, told the News the problem was getting worse in his constituency each year: “There will be many more children affected who we don’t know about, sadly.
“I’m glad Southwark Council and the Mayor of London are helping to fund this hub and hope that they will continue to do so whilst families are in need.
“Children should not be going hungry in one of the wealthiest cities in the world, and much of the growing problem that now exists is a direct result of government policies sadly.
“In 2017 I set up the All Party Parliamentary Group for food banks to challenge ministers on the rising need for food banks and will continue to do so when parliament returns in September.
“In the meantime, I’m deeply grateful to the hundreds of volunteers and donors who help services like Central Southwark Community Hub run across the country.
“After today’s visit I want to particularly thank Felicia, Margaret, and all of the other staff and volunteers who provide this service every school holiday, and for their work throughout the rest of the year providing food and activities to local families.”
Southwark was one of the first local authorities to see residents moved onto Universal Credit. Since then, the council says the new system has led to an increase in rent arrears and surging food bank reliance.
Last August, Pecan, Southwark’s largest food bank, helped 149 children who otherwise would have gone without.
This is an increase of 32 per cent compared with the previous year.
The Department for Work and Pensions has disputed claims the system is pushing people into poverty, claiming many people move onto the system with pre-existing debts which then fall over time.