The Long Summer Holiday And How We Fail Our Children By Kelly Grehan

The long summer holidays. The time children look forward to all year, the chance for family time, holidays, adventure, time with friends, visiting new places…

That’s the expectation anyway.

Sadly, the summer holidays are becoming a time of dread for many families as increasing numbers of people struggle to feed and find affordable childcare for their children.

As schools try their best to ensure income differences are not felt by school children throughout the year (with mixed successes) the holidays has become the great differentiator between children according to the wealth and circumstances of their parents.

As some families fly abroad for new experiences and relaxation, for others survival mode kicks in, with the six weeks something to endure rather than enjoy.

With free school meals guaranteeing that all infant school children and those deemed economically impoverished receive at least five cooked meals a week; the holidays sees the removal of the safety net for up to 3 million children.

This problem is recognised.

In fact an all-party parliamentary group on hunger found there was a “deeply troubling” impact on children who had gone hungry over the holidays and returned to class “malnourished, sluggish and dreary”. They received evidence that affected children “start the new term several weeks, if not months, intellectually behind their more fortunate peers who have enjoyed a more wholesome diet and lots of activity”.

This is further backed up by a 2016 survey by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers where teachers also reported a deterioration in the mental health of those children concerned.

The union blamed low wages and changes to benefits for the ‘unprecedented hunger’ they had witnessed in children.

Further evidence comes from a 2015 study based on a 580 low- and middle-income parents, which found that 62% of parents on less than £25,000 a year can not always afford food in holidays!

For parents with incomes of less than £15,000 the figure rises to 73%, while 41% of parents in low-income families had skipped meals during holidays so that their children could eat.

Very sadly 22% of parents said they had avoided having their children’s friends over and 17% hadn’t invited family to their house during the holidays due to a lack of money and food.

So this means the children are further disadvantaged in missing out on company and stimulation.

The problems do not cease with nutrition.

With increasing numbers of working parents living without nearby family support and without the means to afford childcare while they work, many are faced with a dilemma about where children should spend the day.

The NSPCC last week revealed an increased number of children left alone all day during the summer holidays.

The charity warns that although the law does not give a minimum age at which children can be left on their own, parents and carers can be prosecuted for neglect if they are put at risk of suffering an injury.

Imagine the predicament for a person, maybe struggling with the rent, to put food on the table and knowing that their job does not pay enough to cover these and childcare; or maybe receiving a call from a zero hours employer and having no options of where the children could spend the day.

Leaving a child alone may seem a risk which must be taken.

A child left alone, or in charge of younger siblings, possibly for days in the holidays is missing out on structure and security.

Even for those parents on average incomes the holidays are now a struggle.

The cost of activities once enjoyed for a reasonable rate such as the cinema have now become extortionate, rising expedentially to that of wages.

Holidays in the UK and abroad in school holidays can now be double of those in term time.

Libraries and Sure Start Centres which traditionally supplied free entertainment and activities are closing or withdrawing services.

The old first day back to school tradition of writing what you got up to in the holidays must be a dreaded and distressing experience for some children with it further emphasising their exclusion from parts of life enjoyed by their more fortunate classmates.

What strikes me if that, once again, is that there are a group of children – a significantly large group of children – who are being failed.

They are spending significant periods of their formative years hungry, alone, under stress – all things that are likely to impact negatively on their mental health, their school attainment and their self image.

Despite the rhetoric of this government this is not a poor country and we can do better by our children than this.

People Are Bloody Brilliant By Lucy Chapman

I have been living in a world of negativity, probably since David Bowie died,  not that I’m blaming him; I think he got his timing spot on. 

Then Alan Rickman, then Caroline Ahern and Victoria Wood finished me off. But this isn’t about them.

There was the Brexit referendum here and Trump winning the election in the USA. I found the injustices of our selfish, immoral and heartless government so overwhelming that I felt duty-bound to start attending meetings with the opposition party to fight the good fight. I also felt compelled to put pen to paper and write about these issues for others to read about but the research necessary simply lead me down even darker paths of corruption and lies; the fire of anger and passion raged even stronger than before.

Writing wasn’t a comfort but a catalyst.

But this isn’t about that either. This isn’t even about Kim Jong Un pissing in corners or concerts where children are being bombed, or police being killed trying to save lives, or Muslims being stabbed on their way to worship. No, this all contributed to the anger churning inside, this was my view of the world and I was getting simultaneously more angry yet more numbed to these events and even bored of trying to argue against them. I was writing blogs about how rubbish things were and at the same time was totally fed up with reading the moans of other people, even when I agreed with them… But yesterday at 4.45pm, I set up a JustGiving page…

My good friend has Cancer. At age 36. Two years after beginning a new life, newlywed with her wonderful husband. This isn’t fair. I got angry some more.

She had radiotherapy, chemotherapy, she’s down for surgery but the tumours are too big, the chemo isn’t working, more aggressive chemo then… still not working.

There is a drug, Avastin which could potentially help shrink the tumours to a size that is operable. I will leave the disgusting practices of Hoffman la Roche, the company who supply this drug for another blog. A company who I have heard described as ‘not even amoral but immoral’ by a Doctor.

The upshot is, Avastin is not deemed cost effective enough to be available on the NHS. My friend will have to pay.  

The drug costs £1500 a session, she needs six sessions for this round and it’s very likely she’ll need at least six further sessions.

Yesterday at 4.45pm we set up a justgiving page and we were blown away. In five hours we had raised £6,000 and by morning her first course of treatment at £9,000 was covered and now we’re collecting for the next.

What struck me, and turned my attentions away from how shitty this situation was for my friend and towards how bloody brilliant people are, were the comments left by people making donations and seeing the range of people who donated.

My friend is a teacher and we saw pupils, ex-pupils, parents of pupils donating. One a twelve year old who gave £10 towards his teacher’s treatment. Friends donated, relatives of friends, friends of relatives. One donation came from a young woman / teen whose brother’s girlfriend’s mum is a friend of my friend. She didn’t need to do that! She is a wonderful person!

People who’ve only ever come into contact with my friend via social media sent funds and one complete stranger donated £250! These people are bloody brilliant.

It wasn’t just the money either. 

A man who I’ve met once contacted me to offer to DJ for free for a fundraising event, an ex-pupil now singer emailed me to offer to perform for a fundraising event, a friend started contacting local venues to put together a concert, the head of a teaching union in our area asked if he could see how they might be able to help. This was phenomenal. These people are bloody brilliant.

So stick it death.

Stick it Trump.

Stick it Putin and Kim Jong Un and Theresa May.

Stick it Boris and David Davis with your crass double-D jokes.

Stick it politicians with your penny pinching, grubby little mits all over our public services.

Stick it to your pay caps and your fake pay-cap lifts.

Stick it Amazon and Starbucks and all you other skin-flint companies who dodge contributing to our children’s education and treatment of our sick through fair taxation.

Stick it Richard-offshore-Branson.

We got this. Us little folk, we got this.

Us on the ground doing the legwork; we’re going to foodbanks and we’re putting school uniforms onto credit cards and we’re not just about managing actually, but we got this. We are good people and we count and you know what? Us people, us little people, we are bloody brilliant.  


If you would like to donate to help Kate pay for cancer treatment please click here:

https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/help-kate-kick-cancer?utm_id=2&utm_term=njP86VBeA

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