Minister's Letter - September 2019

Dear friends,

What did you do this summer? Did you have a holiday? Or was your holiday a “stay-cation”? For those of us who can afford a time away, or a series of day trips, summer holidays provide much-needed times of rest and refreshment from education, work and the every-day routine. Our holiday was a trip to Switzerland in our camper van, to visit Daniel’s friends and family, and to walk and read.

Over the past few years, ‘though, it has become increasingly evident that school holidays are one of the most stressful times of year for families – especially where families are poor. There is growing evidence that Universal Credit, a benefit for people out of work and on low incomes, is contributing to this. The main reasons are: the five-week wait to receive any money and the two-child limit. Recently, the submissions from the Trussell Trust to a recent Parliamentary Select Committee enquiry into holiday hunger show that demand for foodbanks and holiday clubs increases significantly during school holidays.

Paul Morrison, Policy Adviser for the Joint Public Issues Team (of the Baptists, Church of Scotland, Methodist and United Reform Churches – also known as JPIT), wrote, “Holidays should be a time for families to relax and enjoy time together. But for the families of over one million children, the long summer holidays means a struggle to afford the basics and increased isolation. I regularly meet parents for whom the long school holidays means they must skip meals in order to ensure their children have enough. It is simply not right that this can happen in today’s UK”.

This is a live issue in Chandler’s Ford and not only for those on benefits. As you know, some of the parents who regularly bring their pre-school children to Dovetots, asked us to run Dovetots Plus (for school-age children) over the summer. They asked because accessing low-cost activities for children during the holidays isn’t easy, and the summer holidays are especially expensive because they go on for so long. It’s been really good to see a number of families coming to Dovetots Plus over the summer. I want to thank all of you who volunteered to make it happen. I hope it will be possible to repeat it during the half-term holidays, because it’s an important way of serving the community, and welcoming people into our Church.

Poverty is a growing issue in this country. And it is a scandal that there will be children going hungry. There are children and parents for whom school holidays are not a time of rest and refreshment, but of hunger and anxiety. The long summer holidays may be past, but this isn’t an issue that’s going to go away quickly, so you might consider doing some of the following:

• Pray.

• Learn more about what’s happening through the Joint Public Issues Team. This is a link to the JPIT website:

www.jointpublicissues.org.uk/issues/poverty-and-inequality/

• Take some action. Write to our MP or join a campaigning group. There’s more information and a starter letter on the JPIT website.

Maybe we can change something for those who might face this situation again in a few weeks?

With good wishes, Sue.