How can 8,400 Northampton children be living hand-to-mouth in 2018?
Wednesday 4 April
Chronicle and Echo published a story this week focusing on the shocking statistics on child poverty revealed in our Hidden Needs report. Chronicle and Echo have kindly allowed us to republish their article.
Imagine being in a situation where, as a parent, you fill yourself up on water alone, for days on end, so your children can eat a hot meal?
That’s one sacrifice a mum-of-two in this town had to make just this week before she swallowed hard on her pride and accessed a food bank.
There, the mum who asked for anonymity, ate a free hot meal, with her partner and two daughters, 10 and six, at Re:store Northampton.
The charity - which is run by Central Vineyard Church - moved to Sheep Street 18 months ago and feeds 4,000 people in desperate need every year, with the help of 45 volunteers.
“That’s not people living on benefits or low income.
“It’s a financial crisis or something that’s a change to their circumstances,” said charity director, Anya Willis who is campaigning locally with the Northamptonshire Food Poverty Network - a coalition of local and concerned individuals - to feed hungry mouths in this county.
The Northamptonshire Community Foundation (NCF) - who dishes out grants to improve the lives of the county’s most disadvantaged people - are also lobbying for change.
In a recent Hidden Needs Report commissioned by NCF last month - it highlights that 8,400 children and young people are living in poverty in Northampton alone.
Anya added: “I think it’s a shocking statistic.
“Imagine each of those children with a face rather than just a number.
“Think of those hungry small children, who are having to go to school and try and learn and focus on what they’re doing each day and possibly not sleeping well.”
She remembers a mum-of-three, who carried her six-month-old twins in arms, as well as her toddler, to access the food bank because her double buggy had broken.
She was referred to Re:store, via her GP, and used all of her money on her bus fare to access a food parcel.
As a result of her referral Re:store identified how they could help her in other aspects of her life by signposting her to relevant authorities and helped to get her a double buggy within days.
Now it’s time for a change.
As part of the national campaign, End Hunger, Rachel McGrath, of Northamptonshire Food Poverty Network, is contacting MPs to sign up to the Holiday Hunger Bill and Food Insecurity Bill.
She believes there is a growing poverty crisis that has been “devastatingly impacted” by local authority budget cuts and continuing austerity measures since 2010.
She said in the 21st century, in one of the richest countries in the world, this should not be happening.
“Voluntary and community groups working across Northamptonshire including food banks, children centres, youth clubs and other crucial services go some way to providing a safety net for the most vulnerable but it is simply not enough.
“If we are to support such groups to continue doing the amazing civil society work that they do to help people they need to be backed by better funded statutory services and resources to continue.
“Otherwise they are simply trying to fill the gaps in a failing system.”
The report - carried out by the University of Northampton, Institute for Social Innovation and Impact - show there is notable social inequalities particularly relating to health and wellbeing that also have a detrimental impact on this town.
Other findings - in the countywide report - show that the number of homeless people per 1,000 households in Northampton (3.44 per cent) exceeds the national average (2.52 per cent) and the highest proportion of crimes and offences committed in Northampton (39.8 per cent) top Kettering with (23.5 per cent).
Similar headlines have also been hitting the national news too with teachers revealing how their pupils would often turn up to school appearing dishevelled and hungry.
Former secondary school teacher, Morcea Walker said 8,400 people going hungry does not surprise her. “Some of these children are not entitled to free school meals so they are just about managing.”
She added: “When they’re leaving home without that initial start it means the rest of the day their brain can’t function from 9 o’clock until 3.30. Yes, they have breaks in between and lunchtimes but it does become increasingly harder.”
Through assessing the town’s hidden needs, NCF aims to encourage pooling of resources towards the social problems that need the most urgent attention but they can’t help everyone.
Can you help?
Poverty is not going to disappear from Northampton overnight - but a little bit of help here and there could just make a huge difference.
Following the Chronicle & Echo’s ‘Fair Deal For Kids’ campaign back in 2015 we helped to raise £11,559 to support five charitable projects working with children and young people to tackle poverty in Northampton.
This included a breakfast club in Blackthorn, support activity for lone young migrants and refugees, support for new mums on a low income and activities for children living in Spring Boroughs.
Now it’s time to launch this campaign all over again, with your help. The Chron has teamed up with the NCF to set up a dedicated Fair Deal for Kids fund.
The fund will be a ring-fenced pot of money for community groups and volunteer organisations within Northamptonshire that work to tackle poverty. Every small donation will make a real difference.
How to donate
Via Text: text FDFK18 followed by your chosen donation (e.g £1) to 70070
Via JustGiving: You can donate online through JustGiving.
Click here to read the Northamptonshire Hidden Needs report in full.