Newcastle City Council has its own temporary accommodation for homeless families. For many years Children North East has enabled the children of families living there to play - we run a creche and an after school club as well as supporting the parent(s) to find and move to permanent tenancies. At any time there are about 60 children living there. This work is funded by grants from the City Council and some we obtain from charitable trusts.
Earlier this year the City Council cut its grant by 10%. We duly made savings by cutting out our 'activities budget' - this is money set aside for children's activities during the holidays, in the past this has included meals for some children. We are applying to charitable trusts to make up the difference but so far with no luck.
It is not well known that far from being 'benefit scroungers' some families in the UK have 'no recourse to public funds (NRPF)' meaning they are not
entitled to welfare benefits, generally they are 'refused' asylum seekers or people who have overstayed their visa. There are a good many families in this position in the temporary accommodation in Newcastle.
They don't have a right to work either so they are entirely dependent on friends, family or charity. During the school term the children of these families do get one meal a day for free at school but now the school holidays have come their families often have nothing to give them. In previous years we have used part of the activities budget to offer children cereal for breakfast and a simple lunch such as beans on toast during school holidays. J R Holland the fruit and veg wholesalers are generous throughout the year and donate fruit for the children.
This year we cannot afford to do this having cut the 'activities budget', instead our own staff are plugging the gap by buying a little extra in their weekly shop and donating it. So here we have a Government without the humanity to care for very vulnerable people until they are deported by giving them even a minimal amount of money to feed their children; a local authority providing shelter for those families but forced to cut back on its spending by the Government; passing that cut on to a charity which too has to economise; the buck passes to the charity's staff who cannot stand by and do nothing while in daily contact with children in basic need of food; so they take it upon themselves to make sure children do not go hungry. This is the reality of the so-called 'Big Society' in 'austerity Britain'.