Perhaps unsurprisingly much of my postbag this week has been about the vote last week in the commons on free school meals and their extension in holiday times. I have tried to explain to constituents that I am not convinced a voucher system is the best way to deliver assistance to families in the most need, and that what we need is a long term sustainable solution not a sticking plaster. Which is why I have publicly called on the Government to make this year’s uplift in UC permanent and to look at how they can flex UC to cover holiday periods. A voucher system does not help with heating costs, or buy a winter coat, and the vote last Wednesday had no legislative purpose and would not have put a single meal on a single table in time for half term.
What can and does help families locally is the Community Pantry at Romsey Community school and I was pleased to hear TVBC had provided £30k of funding to it. Not only do they provide food and recipes for families locally, but also help with cooking skills, either face to face or online. They are operating three days this week and will also be open at Christmas, where their parcels will include food for 7 days. I am very much looking forward to visiting this incredibly practical initiative.
The recess week has given me an opportunity to visit the Calling Window, installed as a tribute to Florence Nightingale in Romsey Abbey. Of course due to covid there has been no opportunity to have a service to dedicate the window, but hopefully that will be able to happen next year. Every Spring we celebrate Florence in Wellow Church, where she is buried, but it is good to be able to also mark one of the areas foremost residents in the Abbey.
Finally the good news from the PM is that Halloween can go ahead, albeit in a socially distanced and respectful way. I think masks will probably take on a new meaning on 31st, but have been struck by how many parents have asked me if their children can still celebrate this rather ghoulish day. I know not everyone enjoys Halloween so please if you are going out trick or treating do it in a sensible and appropriate way. There will be many more people this year who will not welcome strangers coming to their house, so please be careful about spooky activities.