In his article this week Crawley MP Henry Smith addresses the issue that has become the biggest debate of the last week, free meals for children in need.
As Crawley’s MP I continue to call for more help for our local area, and just last week I was able to confirm an additional £510,000 in Government funding for Crawley Borough Council. Our local authority has now received £2.38 million in direct extra support from Government since the start of COVID-19 and that money is provided to help support those most in need across our town.
It is not a question of whether help should be provided – rather how that assistance is best delivered.
This is in addition to the more than £75 million provided to support individuals and businesses in Crawley so far since March. For those amongst us who are most in need, Universal Credit benefits have been increased by an extra £1,000 per year – an additional £20 more per week. That is how I want our Government to directly support mums and dads in Crawley, extra money paid into their bank accounts to help them buy the food they need to feed their families. Money, not vouchers.
To make sure that no one goes without, £63 million has been distributed to local authorities in England to help those who are struggling to afford essentials due to COVID-19 (the school voucher scheme would only offer £20 million in help nationally). West Sussex County Council has received over £737,000 from the Local Authority Emergency Assistance Grant for Food and Essential Supplies. The County Community Hub is continuing to support the most vulnerable; if you or someone you know requires their assistance please visit: https://www.westsussex.gov.uk/fire-emergencies-and-crime/coronavirus-covid-19-advice-and-information/community-hub-covid-19/
We are all feeling the strain of the restrictions on our lives due to Covid and so many people are worried about recovering from its damaging effects on our future economic wellbeing – one of the reasons I have set up and Chair the All-Party Parliamentary Future of Aviation Group, to lobby for this critical, job-providing sector in Crawley. I am working day and night to try to secure Crawley’s future prosperity so there will actually be jobs here for our children in the years to come, and the suggestion that I personally do not care about the children of our town is just so wrong.
I chose to live in Crawley decades ago because of the strong community we are, and I love the generosity of spirit that exists here. Yes, I have previously been unemployed myself and I know the sense of worry that not having a job brings for each family in that situation. I am doing all I can to fight for Crawley right now.
Clearly, many are very unhappy with the way the Government has handled the proposal of providing free school meals during school holidays, but that should not detract from the significant support actually being delivered for Crawley’s most in need already.
I will continue to lobby for more Government-provided financial support. Let us be clear, this needs to be a policy of sustainable assistance, not a one-off gesture. As for vouchers, the solution lies within the benefits payment system which can flex instantly. If the solution is that additional payments need to be made during school holidays then that is what needs to be put before Parliament for a vote and I will support it.
Henry Smith MP
Henry Smith MP: Roll-out of vaccine is a feat our country can be proud of
The roll-out of the Covid-19 vaccine is a feat which our country can be proud of. I am grateful for the dedication of NHS staff and all the workers and volunteers involved in protecting our nation at this time.
At locations throughout Sussex, including at Crawley Hospital, people are receiving Covid vaccines as part of our fightback against the virus.
There are now more than 1,000 GP services and over 250 hospital sites now offering vaccinations in England.
Sussex Community NHS Foundation Trust is the lead provider for the vaccination programme locally and they are looking for people to play their part in the vaccine roll-out.
The NHS are calling for potential vaccinators and volunteers to help protect millions of people from Covid, and want people who are able to work as flexibly as possible, including at evenings and weekends. I am grateful to everyone who has signed up already with more opportunities still available.
If you would like to help or are interested in finding out more, please click here for information from the Sussex Community NHS Foundation Trust, and click here if you are interested in other volunteering opportunities as part of the NHS Volunteer Responder scheme.
Henry Smith MP