Following the national debate about the provision of free school meals during the school holidays and aware of the significant and increasing numbers of deprived families on the Island, council leader Dave Stewart has confirmed that the Isle of Wight Council remains committed to ensuring all Island children and families in need of vital food support, both during school holidays and at other times, get access to all possible available help.
Councillor Stewart said: “In the short term we have committed extra money to the ‘Help Through Crisis’ scheme which is already operating to provide crucial help to those Islanders struggling to afford food and other essentials during the pandemic. I am sure we will be able to find more money if required. I do not want any Island child to go hungry.
"The Help Through Crisis scheme provides access to emergency food parcels and other food provision support - linking with the Isle of Wight Foodbank and other local community food provision such as Ventnor Foodbank, Ryde Aspire, West Wight Food Support, and Sandown Free Food; also ‘Baby Box’ to provide support for families experiencing food crisis for babies and toddlers.
"Additional support is also available through the council’s Children’s Services as part of its normal arrangements for child care and support. Any family in need should not feel concerned about contacting the council and getting support – we are there to help and if necessary people can use our helpline 823600.
Councillor Paul Brading, Cabinet member for Children’s Services said: “The issue of supporting vulnerable young people is something which is close to my heart as I know it will be for all Islanders and councillors and is something to consider in everything we do. Working together to ensure our vulnerable children get a meal every day, not just when they are at school, should be our minimum expectation.
“Therefore, I and my Cabinet colleagues will work quickly over the coming weeks to develop a stand alone support package for all vulnerable children and families over the Christmas period and which could be repeated during other school holidays throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. This will include a simpler way of distributing the support to avoid families falling into crisis and leaving Help Through Crisis to assist those in the most urgent need of help.”
Councillor Stewart added: “I know there are many on the Island who have similar views and will support the Christmas initiative being proposed. I am keen to move on from the political debate about the issue and will look for consensus across the council chamber that this is the right thing to do. I would also like to thank and pay tribute to all those organisations and businesses on the Island which have stepped in to provide vital extra help in this area both throughout the pandemic and in recent days. So let’s all work together to tackle this community need.”