Cllr Ed Davie is the Cabinet Member for Children and Young People and a councillor in Thornton ward.
After nearly a whole year of disrupted education, out of school activities and parental employment many of Lambeth’s children are having a difficult time.
No generation has ever been through this experience and I am filled with admiration for those children, including the two in my home, who have managed to learn, socialise, and exercise in new ways.
But like most things the burden has not been spread evenly and while my two have laptops, wi-fi, plenty of room, a garden, a fridge full of food and heating, too many Lambeth children do not enjoy these privileges.
Even before the pandemic 43% of children in the borough were living in poverty and with unemployment trebling in some areas that figure is sadly bound to rise.
In the short, medium, and long-term Lambeth Labour is determined to support our children and their families to get through the current crisis and have a brighter future. We must not simply return to the poverty and unfairness that blights too many young lives.
In the short-term Lambeth Council is using the money Marcus Rashford’s campaign won from the government to give all children registered for Free School Meals at schools in the borough a £15 supermarket voucher and £5 towards household bills during half-term. Last half-term the Council chose to pay £165,000 for this arrangement when the government refused to step in. Unlike some neighbouring Tory-run boroughs Lambeth Council only uses vouchers and cash rather than the disgraceful food boxes that rob families of dignity, choice or, in many cases, a half-decent meal.
We intend to continue during the Easter and Summer holidays along with a boosted Emergency Support Scheme for families who get into financial difficulty.
The Council has also distributed thousands of laptops, tablets, and dongles to enable children to learn at home and we have supported over 40% of our most vulnerable children to continue physically attending school.
In the medium term the Council is consulting and you can have your say on Lambeth Food Poverty and Insecurity Action Plan 2021-24 | Lambeth Council This consultation will also add ideas to a new Lambeth Child Poverty Strategy aiming to reduce financial hardship among our 65,000 children and their families.
This Strategy will build on work we have done to promote genuinely Living Wage employment, build 1,000 new social rent homes and provide excellent, affordable childcare and education.
Soon the council intends to start consulting on extending the Council Tax Support scheme so that the 7,000 most deprived households in the borough not covered by the current 100% relief scheme will not pay any council tax from April 2022.
We know times are exceptionally tough but we are determined to use all of our powers to support children and their families get through this crisis and enjoy a better future free of the poverty that harms their health, education and futures.
Cllr Ed Davie