No. 6 in a series of articles reporting on the responses of Caritas member organisations to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Dr Rosemary Keenan, Chief Executive of the Catholic Children’s Society (Westminster), reported, ‘We are hearing of so many families who are falling through gaps in government support. Foodbanks are overwhelmed and these families are at absolute breaking point.’ The charity has been supporting vulnerable families. ‘So far, in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, we have been able to help over 2,300 children (1,400 families) with funding for food and basic essentials.’
She spoke of a widowed mother of two young children who lost her job as a cleaner because of Covid-19. When her children’s school found out that the she had just £10 left to support her family until she could get back to work, ‘we were able to alleviate the pressure on this vulnerable family by providing them with funding to buy food for the next six weeks.’
Bernadette Fisher, Director of Brentwood Catholic Children’s Society, reported that it had a Crisis Fund and had been providing supermarket vouchers. The number of families being referred had increased since schools closed and a special appeal had been launched to top up funds.
Mark Wiggin, Director of Caritas Salford, said that its Schools Team had found that non-working families were facing food poverty, and grateful for food parcels and vouchers from schools to feed their children. He said, ‘There appear to be differences between local authorities about how and when the lunches and food vouchers are being distributed, and some families who are struggling are not eligible for this help.’
There are also numerous examples of schools “going above and beyond to support families”. He said, ‘One of our schools has completed a ‘Tesco big shop’, using school funds, for a family who literally had no food to last them over a weekend until they were able to get to the foodbank on the Monday.’ A social worker in Caritas Salford supported another school’s efforts by delivering food vouchers to 23 vulnerable families, ensuring they had access to food in lieu of school meals, and doing a doorstep welfare check with the children at the same time.
This post is adapted from an article by Ellen Teague, first published in ‘The Tablet’ in association with CSAN.