Free school breakfasts scheme an uncosted blow to schools, families and children

The Lib Dems have warned that Tory plans to scrap free school lunches, in favour of free breakfasts, is an uncosted scheme that will put pressure on barely managing families and schools, as well as contributing to the issue of childhood obesity.

The Conservative manifesto pledges to scrap universal free school lunches for primary school pupils under seven, one of the policies the Lib Dems authored during their time in the coalition, and replace it with a scheme to provide free school breakfasts for all primary school children. Universal Free School Meals cost an estimated £600 million a year. The Tory manifesto has pledged just £60 million a year for their breakfast scheme, saying the difference will help fund school budgets.

However, the Conservatives have set aside just 6.8p per pupil for its manifesto pledge to give all primary school pupils free breakfasts, in what food experts have labelled a “black hole” in the government’s manifesto calculations.

Aisling Kirwan, the founding director of the Grub Club, a school-based social enterprise that provides cooking lessons for pupils in poorer areas, said that a nutritious meal costs 25p  per pupil on average. Even then, this is only a bowl of porridge with milk. A more filling breakfast, which would include bacon, two sausages, one egg and bread, would cost 85p per portion.

“Clearly there’s a huge disparity between the realistic costing and that put forward by the Tories,” she said.

Dr Rebecca Allen, director of think tank Education Datalab, said in SchoolsWeek, that schools were looking at a bill in the region of £400 million once costs of paying a teaching assistant to oversee the breakfast club were included.

Scrapping free school lunches in favour of free breakfasts could also have a significant nutritional cost, Nick Clegg has warned, saying Theresa May should take “her inspiration from Jamie Oliver not Oliver Twist”.

Clegg said scrapping the lunches, which will be replaced by free breakfasts, could mean thousands of pupils no longer receive a single portion of fruit or vegetables on a daily basis.

No nutritional guidelines exist for school breakfasts, though schools are expected to provide two to three of the recommended five portions of fruit and vegetables a day in school lunches.

Judith Bunting said this week that:

“This scheme is an uncosted disaster that will hit children, families and schools hard. At a time of unprecedented school cuts, schools will be expected to fund staff to cover free breakfast clubs. Families who are barely managing with stagnated incomes and rising costs will struggle to fund the extra £440 a year per child for lunches – or send them to school with a less nutritious packed lunch.

Half of low-income pupils go hungry at breakfast, and a further fifth eat breakfasts with little or no nutritional value. Providing them with a bowl of sugary cereal is not going to help this. When we know we have issues in this country with both childhood obesity and food poverty, this scheme is ridiculous.”

Judith meets local entrepreneur Ruth Headon

Judith Bunting with Ruth Headen at Rio's Burger Bar

Ruth Headon is a local woman who has turned her life around. Judith went to meet her and hear her story and her plans for the future, growing a business in Newbury.

Ruth’s life spiralled out of control a few years ago, in a few short months she lost everything, her home, family, her child and friends to alcoholism and addiction. With the help of a great friend, Dave, she pulled herself through it and is now celebrating 3 years sober. 

Ruth found herself looking at a window sign in Rio’s Burger Bar asking for till staff, and she hasn’t looked back. She is now the manager there and has been there for two and a half years. 

Rio’s is now being sold and Ruth’s determined and entrepreneurial spirit has given her the motivation to want to take over Rio’s herself, and continue her efforts to support those who are going through similar experiences to her. Calling herself lucky, Ruth is now giving back to the community and is teaching others how to complete forms and how to read. With a desire to do whatever she can to help people and make a difference she has completed both Peer and Facilitating Training. 

Ruth describes the team at Rios as ‘a team of amazing people, my own little family. This is my recovery community. People come to Rio’s for food and advice’. 

Judith Bunting with Ruth Headen & her team at Rio's Burgers
Judith with Ruth (far right) & her team at Rio’s Burgers

Judith said: “I support Ruth and her venture; looking to the future and not backwards – we need more of this. Ruth has overcome a great deal to get to the position she is in now and she says people should “have pride at where you are now, not shame about where you have been”.” 

Ruth is now looking to buy Rios burgers in Newbury where she has worked for 2.5 years and is currently successfully managing. Ruth has set up her own crowd funding page to support her efforts of buying Rio’s and enable her to continue her charitable support of those who are suffering. http://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/rios-for-ruth

The Liberal Democrats have announced policies to support local businesses and entrepreneurs in their 2017 manifesto. Judith says: “Backing local businesses is very important to me as a local person, as when small businesses thrive they strengthen our economy and provide local jobs.”

Judith Bunting: Standing up for Local Business

 

Judith Bunting announces Lib Dem plans for funding boost to give children in West Berkshire a brighter future

Judith reading to preschool children
Judith reading to preschool children

This week, at Park House School, Newbury, Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Candidate Judith Bunting launched the Liberal Democrat’s manifesto policies for young people and children.

Under the plans, 3-4 year-olds in Newbury and West Berkshire would benefit from Liberal Democrat plans to triple funding for the early years pupil premium, which gives extra cash to nurseries, pre-schools and school receptions when they take on children from disadvantaged backgrounds. The cash would triple the funding to £1,000 per pupil per year – up from £302 in 2015-16.  This will increase the allocation for West Berkshire Council from around £75,000 (£74,591) to £223,773, and will pay for every disadvantaged child who benefits to receive 570 hours of state-funded early education. This forms part of a series of policies the Liberal Democrats are announcing with a focus on giving children and young people a brighter future.

Judith Bunting said: “I was delighted to be able to tell the 6th formers today about key Liberal Democrat policies that will significantly improve the lives of young people.”

These include:

  • Helping people buy their first home for the same cost as renting, with a new model of ‘Rent to Own’ homes
  • Restoring housing benefit for young people
  • Creating a discounted bus pass for 16-21 year olds, giving a 66% discount
  • Introducing votes at 16 for elections and referendums across the UK

As well as:

  • Investing almost £7bn in our schools and colleges
  • Doubling the number of businesses that take apprenticeships
  • Tripling the early years pupil premium
  • Extending free school meals to all primary school students

Judith Bunting added: “We will give children in Newbury and West Berkshire a brighter future, by investing in those from more deprived backgrounds to give them the best possible chance in life.

“This forms part of a package to build a fairer Britain and ensure no child or young person is left behind. Education is at the heart of everything I stand for, as a Liberal Democrat.

“I want the opportunity to help the Liberal Democrats provide a strong opposition to this Conservative government and to give the people of Newbury and West Berkshire a voice in standing up against the cuts to our local schools, hospitals and regional funding.

“A vote for the Liberal Democrats is a vote for a brighter future for people across Newbury and the surrounding area.”  

“Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour has let us all down by voting with Theresa May and UKIP on Brexit. “The Liberal Democrats will stand up to Theresa May and give the people the final say on Brexit, with the choice to remain in Europe if they don’t like the deal on offer.”

Lib Dem Judith Bunting unveils manifesto plan to fund more nurses, teachers and police in West Berkshire

The Liberal Democrats have launched their manifesto plans today for a brighter future, with pledges to reverse Conservative cuts and increase funding for the NHS, schools and police.

The Party’s landmark policy would give the people the final say on the Brexit deal which would include the option to remain in the EU.

The Liberal Democrats would put a penny on income tax for health and care, which would raise £8m for the NHS in Newbury and District Clinical Commissioning Group – enough to fund 48 more nurses.

An additional £28,953,046 of funding for schools in West Berkshire paid for in part by reversing Conservative cuts to corporation tax, would be enough to pay for 159 more teachers.

Meanwhile an additional £8.3m funding for Thames Valley Police would pay for 166 more officers, helping to cut crime and ensure a stronger police presence in the area.

Other key policies in the Liberal Democrat manifesto include plans for a £100bn infrastructure fund to build more homes, improve road and rail links and install fibre-optic broadband across the country.

The Liberal Democrats will also give the people a chance to change Britain’s future by holding a referendum on the final Brexit deal, with the option to remain.

Liberal Democrat candidate for Newbury, Judith Bunting said:

“These plans would build a brighter future for people in Newbury and West Berkshire and reverse Conservative cuts to our schools, hospitals and police.

“We want to build a fairer Britain, with good schools and hospitals, a clean environment and an innovative economy.

“You don’t have to accept Theresa May and Nigel Farage’s cold, mean-spirited vision of Britain.

“The Liberal Democrats will stand up to a bad Brexit deal that will cost jobs and put up prices and give you the final say.

“As your Liberal Democrat MP, I will fight for a better deal on Europe, more money for the NHS and schools and a brighter future for Newbury and West Berkshire.” 

Judith Bunting outside West Berkshire Community Hospital
Judith Bunting outside West Berkshire Community Hospital

The Lib Dem Manifesto (and Easy Read, BSL and Braille versions) can be found here.

Judith supports the Mencap Campaign for Easy Read manifestos

 

FriendshipSkillsc
Judith at the local Friendships Skills group

Message from Judith…

I am delighted to support the Mencap Campaign for Easy Read manifestos for the 2017 General Election.

Over 1.4 million people in the UK have a learning disability. About 1 million of these people will have the opportunity to vote in the General Election. Research for Mencap’s Hear my Voice campaign in 2015 showed that people with a learning disability have a political appetite and want to vote.

I have met with our local Friendship Skills group for a political grilling twice, now, and the questions asked by the group are often just as tough as those from the audience at public hustings.

The support given by groups, such as the Mencap Friendship Skills group is excellent. Nonetheless, many feel excluded from the political process due to the inaccessible language and jargon used in politics. Providing Easy Read manifestos can change that.

The Liberal Democrats provided an Easy Read manifesto in 2015, alongside the standard version.

An image of the Lib Dem Easy Read manifesto from 2015
Part of the 2015 Lib Dem Easy Read manifesto

Easy Read means using simple language and pictures to make information easier to understand for people with a learning disability. By providing an Easy Read manifesto you are making sure that people with a learning disability feel included and that their vote is valued and counts.

I am delighted to report that the Liberal Democrats were one of the first parties to commit to do the same for 2017.

Links to the standard and Easy Read Manifestos will be posted here, as soon as they are available.

Please sign up below, if you would like me to forward the link to the Liberal Democrat manifestos when they are available (should be Wednesday). 

Please send me a link to the manifesto

Judith Bunting at Newbury Friendships Skills group
Judith at the local Friendships Skills group

For more information on this issue, this podcast may help.

Liberal Democrats commit to ending rough sleeping in Newbury

housing (2)

The Liberal Democrats have become the first major party of this election to commit to ending the “national scandal” of rough sleeping across Britain, including in Newbury and West Berkshire.

Latest official figures for West Berkshire show that 14 people were sleeping rough in Newbury in the Autumn of 2016, almost double the number of people in 2013. Local groups who work with homeless people, such as Loose Ends and West Berkshire Homeless, put the current number much higher at 25 people.

It is a scandal that so many people are sleeping on the streets in 21st century Britain.

Here in Newbury, we all know that as well as the people who have been ‘counted’, many more sofa surf or are in insecure accommodation for only the occasional night, and we know we have single homeless people and couples who are sleeping rough. That is why I welcome this commitment by the Liberal Democrats to end homelessness in the UK.

The series of measures to end rough sleeping, laid out by the Liberal Democrat national party, include introducing a Housing First provider in each local authority that would put long-term homeless people straight into independent homes rather than emergency shelters.

The news comes as a coalition of homelessness charities, including Centrepoint, Crisis, Homeless Link, Shelter and St Mungo’s, have called on political parties to commit to end rough sleeping in Britain.

By increasing practical support for homelessness prevention and properly funding emergency accommodation, we can end rough sleeping in Newbury and West Berkshire and across the country.

We will ensure that each local authority has at least one provider of Housing First services, to allow long-term homeless people to live independently in their own homes.

The evidence suggests that supporting people with a long-term, stable place to stay is far more successful in tackling homelessness than constantly moving them through the chain of different temporary accommodations.

Under this government, homelessness has soared and young people are being been stripped of housing benefit, threatening to make matters even worse.

This election is a chance to change the direction of this country and stand up for a can-do Britain that is open, tolerant and united.