While many children in Hartlepool will be dreading going back to school after the summer holidays, there will be a small group of kids who will be looking forward to getting back through the school gates.
These are the children whose parents are so poor that they struggle to feed their kids and themselves at the same time. At least when these youngsters are at school they are guaranteed a decent meal.
There will be some people reading this who think I’m over-dramatizing the way that poverty in our town manifests itself but that is far from the case. The official statistics showing the number of Hartlepool kids living in poverty are there for all to see and I know for a fact that there are many parents in Hartlepool who go without food themselves in order to feed their kids.
The pledge of free school dinners in Labours manifesto at the election proved very popular among voters and I’m proud that we pushed that policy.
It’s pleasing to see that Hartlepool Council take this issue very seriously and that funding for the “filling the gap” scheme was increased this year from £25,000 to £42,000, with 18 organisations benefiting from the cash. But I was stunned to see on the internet that posters were very disparaging about what they dubbed ‘the holiday hunger scheme’, criticising a scheme that gives a meal to the neediest children really is beyond contempt.
These people are either using any excuse to have a politically motivated dig at the council or they are blissfully unaware how the town’s most deprived families are barely surviving, let alone living.
It should shame us all that in 2017 in a rich country like Britain, we have children living in poverty and families struggling to feed their kids. And don’t get me started on the obscenity of food banks in Britain in the 21st century.
l On a lighter note I thoroughly enjoyed visiting the Headland library on Tuesday, where I met with children’s librarian Heather Bellwood and kids who had completed the excellent summer reading challenge.
The challenge was to read six books over the holidays, solve riddles, clues and find who stole the ‘missing lunch’ and everyone completed their task with merit. It was a true honour to present the medals and certificates to the children.
I can’t emphasise enough just how important education is, and this summer reading programme is a fine example of how the learning agenda is promoted in Hartlepool. Our young people have so much talent and that has manifested itself in the recent A level and GCSE successes across the town. Such fantastic outcomes are a credit to the students their schools and their tutors, and I have nothing but praise for their hard work and efforts in achieving what in many cases have been record breaking results.
l Finally, It was great to see our very own HMS Trincomalee playing centre stage in the fantastic ITV drama ‘Victoria’ last Sunday.
The HMS Trincomalee was substituting for HMS Trafalgar and the whole of the former Historic Quay made for a terrific backdrop. Hartlepool truly has a fantastic offer when it comes to the film and television industry and I for one hope that more is to come, Such coverage can only have a positive effect on tourism.