Council leader provides update in new column
Posted on 1 Jul 2020
As I look out my dining room window, whilst writing this week’s column, the wind and rain can only mean one thing - the start of the school summer holidays.
This week usually signals the beginning of our ‘Wrap, Run and Fun’ clubs. These school holiday clubs, which have been running for a number of years in North Ayrshire, aim to ensure that kids across our area can continue to get a nutritious lunch during the school holidays, a time when endless studies have showed many children go without. Our approach to supporting these children has grown massively in recent years and, with the support of local community groups, helps us feed hundreds of young people during the holidays. It is an approach that has received national acclaim.
Unfortunately, holiday hunger remains a major problem across Scotland. Frankly, in this day and age, it is shameful to think that any child should go without a meal. But while we delivering local solutions, it remains a real problem.
This summer, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, we are not able to run our clubs and are having to take an alternative approach to supporting families.
During this pandemic, North Ayrshire Council has delivered over one million meals to families and vulnerable residents. It has been an incredible effort, both logistically and in terms of resources. But as more and more services reopen, and staff are deployed back to their normal duties, the model is just not sustainable.
We believe that a food voucher scheme offers a suitable alternative. The food vouchers will be worth £20 per week - £4 per day – and can be used in a variety of stores including Asda, Tesco, Morrisons and many more. They cannot be used for age-restricted products.
Anyone eligible for a free school meal is entitled to a voucher. The vouchers are for those with an assessed need/entitlement and will not cover universal free entitlement for P1-P3 children
We are acutely aware that there will be people whose circumstances have changed as a result of Covid-19 but they are not currently eligible for free school meals. We will be exploring ways to support these families.
In addition to the free school meal vouchers, we will continue to provide for our most vulnerable residents and will work with third sector organisations and food banks to ensure nobody misses out. This will build on the outstanding efforts of the community hubs, that have supported thousands of residents during the current pandemic, using a community wealth building approach as part of a design experiment to create a sustainable community food system.
This recognises that alternative delivery models of food support, which take a community wealth building approach and support local enterprises to provide food to vulnerable citizens, can turn the community power we have witnessed during this crisis into economic power going forward. Exploration of alternative delivery models will be carried out during the summer with the findings considered after recess.
These measures were agreed at a meeting of my Cabinet on Tuesday.
With lockdown measures easing and the guidance changing, it is a very busy time for the Council. I can appreciate this can be overwhelming for residents too and can be hard to take in.
We are providing regular updates on our social media channels and will continue to answer any queries you may have.
Hopefully we are now seeing some light at the end of the tunnel. Please follow the guidelines and hopefully we will get to the other side fairly soon.