Category Archives: Children

The ‘shocking’ part of this report is that it was so easy for 1.3m children & babies to fall into poverty

Family poverty skyrocketed under Tory policies of benefit denial and wage depression. Now they can blame Covid-19 for it.

Research from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and baby bank charity Little Village has shown that 1.3 million babies and children aged less than five in the UK are now in poverty.

The report found 34 per cent of families with one child under five live below the poverty line, meaning they survive on less than 60% of the median household income in the UK.

1.3 million of the 4.2 million children in poverty in the UK are babies and children under the age of 5.

Two in five of the families of the children in poverty have seen a reduction in their earnings as a result of the ongoing Covid crisis.

Undoubtedly the government will want to blame Covid-19. Measures to control the pandemic have meant lower-level incomes have suffered.

But who imposed those measures? The Tories.

And why were so many families already so close to poverty that it took only a 20 per cent reduction in their incomes (the difference between normal wages and furlough payments) to drop them into it? Because the Tories encouraged wage depression over the 10 years prior to the pandemic.

Finally, let us all remember that the pandemic has been a windfall for the richest people in the country. They have increased their income hugely.

Source: 1.3m babies and kids under 5 live in poverty in Britain, ‘shocking’ new report finds – Mirror Online

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Dutch Rutte government resigns over child welfare fraud scandal – Vox Political Scrapbook

I brought this to your attention yesterday, remarking on the similarity between this and the wrong done to UK child benefit claimants by the Conservatives, with their so-called ‘rape clause’.

Now this has happened:

Mark Rutte’s government has stepped down after thousands of families were wrongly accused of child welfare fraud and told to pay money back.

Families suffered an “unparalleled wrong”, Dutch MPs decided, with tax officials, politicians, judges and civil servants leaving them powerless.

An “unparalleled wrong”.

The Dutch can recognise when their government mistreats their benefit claimants abominably.

Why can’t we show the same perception, here in the UK?

Source: Dutch Rutte government resigns over child welfare fraud scandal – BBC News

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After another SERIES of ‘free school meals’ scandals, Rashford demands overhaul of the whole system

Marcus Rashford: he wins campaigns against Boris Johnson’s government (unlike Keir Starmer’s Labour Party) so it is welcome that he is spearheading this call for an all-encompassing review of government policy on child food poverty.

After the second ‘Free School Meals’ scandal in three days, This Writer feels sure I was among many people who wondered why Marcus Rashford – now generally accepted as the Opposition to the Tory government in such matters – had not spoken up.

Now we know.

Rashford, who was instrumental in forcing the government to provide free school meals during Covid-19 lockdowns and during holidays – including Christmas – when the Tories wanted children to starve, has not confined himself to a single FSM-related issue.

Instead he has joined with celebrity chefs and campaigners to demand a full review of Tory policy on child food poverty which they rightly say is not fit for purpose.

They have written a letter to Boris Johnson and his trained-ape-serving-as-Education-Secretary, Gavin Williamson, here:

It deserves to be reproduced in full:

 We are writing to you to express our concern that the issue of Free School Meals risks once again becoming divisive, and to encourage the Government to undertake an urgent comprehensive review of Free School Meal policy to reform the system for the longer term. We are ready and willing to support your Government in whatever way we can to make this review a reality and to help develop a set of recommendations that everyone can support. It is only by working together that we end child food poverty.

We know that all political parties agree on the outcome that we are aiming for – ensuring that all children have access to enough health, good-quality food to fulfil their potential. Last Autumn, the Government announced several very positive new measures to help combat child hunger, and we strongly welcomed those announcements. This week, we were heartened to see the Department for Education’s swift response to reports of inadequate Free School Meal food parcels being provided by private companies. The robustness of the message from you and the Secretary of State on this issue was very welcome.

I can only assume the last two sentences of this paragraph were included to butter Johnson up, as most of the nation was horrified that Johnson had contracted out responsibility to provide £30 food parcels to private, profit-making firms who did what came naturally – skimmed off five-sixths of the cash in profit and provided £5 worth of food to cover children’s meals for 10 days.

Some Tories even went on the record to say they couldn’t understand the fuss as this was only supposed to provide for a single meal in the day – without realising that their right-wing policies have stamped on families so hard that this may be the only food those children see in a day.

Despite these positive commitments, we strongly feel that now (following the series of problems which have arisen over school food vouchers, holiday provision and food parcels since the start of the pandemic) is the right moment for you to step back and review the policy in more depth. The signatories to this letter urge the Government to conduct an urgent comprehensive review into Free School Meal policy across the UK to provide recommendations for the next Spending Review.

This would allow the Government to provide strong national leadership on children’s food so that our nation’s most disadvantaged children and their families, already disproportionately impacted by Covid-19, don’t continue to bear the brunt. In the first lockdown (March-August), 2.3 million children experienced food insecurity and during the 2020 summer holidays 850,000 children reported that they or their families visited a food bank. Free School Meals are a very important part of the safety net that protects children from impoverished families from hunger and poor nutrition.

We believe the review should be debated in Parliament and published before the 2021 summer holidays. The process will require collaboration from politicians in all the devolved nations with responsibility for school food in their regions, and must involve close consultation with children and young people, as well as teachers, charities, NGOs, frontline catering staff and school meals service providers. It should draw on evidence of food insecurity and health inequalities. We stand ready to provide our full support to the review process.

And experience tells us that the only people Boris Johnson’s government likes to consult are those who are likely to agree with what he wants to do; dissenting voices are ignored. This will make it very difficult for the Tories to devise a strategy that works for any group wider than the Conservative government of Boris Johnson.

We recommend that its scope include:

1. The current eligibility thresholds for Free School Meals. The Government should seek to ensure disadvantaged children are not excluded from Free School Meal eligibility (in line with National Food Strategy recommendations) and to work with the Devolved Administrations to eliminate disparities between the nations. Current estimates show 2 in 5 UK children under the poverty line are missing out. The ongoing eligibility for children from No Recourse to Public Funds should be address explicitly.

2. How funding for Free School Meals can deliver the biggest nutritional and educational impact, supporting children’s learning and well-being throughout the school day and during the school holidays (including breakfast provision and the School Fruit and Vegetable Scheme). This should include whether the current allowance for Free School Meals is adequate and whether funding for national breakfasts adequately covers all who would benefit from access to provision.

3. How schools can be supported to deliver the best quality school meals which adhere to school food standards and which ensure the poorest children receive the best possible offer. This should include introducing mandatory monitoring and evaluation on an ongoing basis of Free School Meal take-up, the quality/nutritional adequacy of meals, and examining how the financial transparency of the current system can be improved.

4. What we have learned from Covid-19 and its impact on children in low-income families and the implications of this for school food policy for the next 5 years, as the country recovers.

5. Ensuring that existing school food programmes (such as Free School Meals, holiday provision and breakfast provision) eliminate experiences of stigma for the poorest students. Review the impact that Universal Infant Free School Meals has had on stigma, health, and education.

6. The role of family income (wages and benefits) in enabling families to afford quality food in and outside of school time and during the holidays with choice and dignity.

The Tory response to this should be interesting. Tories habitually say families should be able to provide for their own children, despite the fact that their own policies have squeezed family incomes beyond breaking-point. It’s no good saying people should be able to afford things when you are responsible for ensuring that they can’t!

This review would provide the Government with the opportunity to future-proof its policy on school food, and to carefully consider how best to support low-income children and families in the aftermath of the pandemic. It would also demonstrate the Government’s commitment to tackling child food poverty in the longer term and be a significant step towards a comprehensive long-term plan.

I foresee difficulties.

Already the Welsh Government – which is run by the Labour Party – has taken to Twitter to let people in Wales know that the problems created by the Tories in England do not affect them:

The Tories are hardly going to want to work with organisations that are merrily scoring points off them.

School food is essential in supporting the health and learning of our most disadvantaged children. Now, at a time when children have missed months of in-school learning and the pandemic has reminded us of the importance of our health, this is a vital next step.

The letter is signed by Rashford, Jamie Oliver, Emma Thompson, Tom Kerridge and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, and by representatives of Food Foundation, School Food Matters, Chefs in Schools, the Children Society, Children’s Food Campaign, Children’s First Alliance, Feeding Britain, Soil Association, The Bread and Butter Thing, Mayor’s Fund for London, The School Food People, Meals & More, Poverty and Inequality Commission, Independent Food Aid Network UK, Impact on Urban Health, The Fair Education Alliance, the WI, ASSIST FM, Magic Breakfast, Turn2Us, Buttle UK, Greater Manchester Poverty Action, End Child Poverty Coalition, TACT, Scottish Qut of School Care Network, Khulisa UK, The Mighty Creatives, The Equality Trust, One Parent Families Scotland, End Furniture Poverty, Family Action, USDAW, Child Poverty Action Group, Biteback 2030, Just Fair, Rose Hill & Donnington Advice Centre, Oxford, Co-Op Retail, Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, The British Psychological Society, British Association of Social Workers, Association of School and College Leaders, King’s Cross Academy, Academies Enterprise Trust, Cabot Learning Federation, Co-op Academies Trust, The Shared Learning Trust, The Eden Academy Trust, LDBS Academies Trusts, National Governance Association, Centre for Literacy in Primary Education and Teach First.

I include the whole list because I think it is important for us to understand the sheer number of organisations that now exist to address children’s food poverty – or have to address it as part of their wider activities.

This has only become such a major issue because the Conservatives have forced so many families into food poverty.

So it seems worthwhile to raise the issue of whether we should stop allowing Conservative Party members to form governments that inflict such misery, such starvation, on so many millions of us, just so a tiny minority can live in the kind of luxury that most of us cannot even imagine.

There’s only one question left to ask:

Why is Rashford doing the Labour Party’s job? If Jeremy Corbyn was still party leader, Labour would be all over this.

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Dutch government faces collapse over child benefits scandal. Why didn’t that happen to the Tories?

I bring this to your attention because the UK Conservative Party restricted child benefits to cover two children a few years ago.

Any parent wishing to claim benefit for a third child (or more) had to prove that the child was born in extraordinary circumstances conforming to a clause in new Tory legislation that swiftly became known as the rape clause.

It demanded that people who had been criminally violated not only had to relive the experience but also had to discuss it with strangers who should have had no right to know.

Parents with more than two children who could not provide such information lost benefit for more than two children instantly.

Those who could provide it were not guaranteed the extra cash because a DWP adjudicator could easily decide against them.

There was an outcry against this change in the law – which unreasonably discriminates against victims of violent crime.

But the Tories were never in any danger of being removed.

So here’s the question:

Are the Dutch overreacting? Or should the Tories have stepped down over their law that exposes and humiliates rape victims?

The Dutch government will decide on Friday whether to step down over an escalating scandal in which tax officials wrongly accused thousands of parents of fraud, plunging many families into debt by ordering them to repay childcare allowances.

The opposition Labour party leader, Lodewijk Asscher, who was social affairs minister in the previous government, resigned over the affair on Thursday, denying he knew the tax authority was “wrongly hunting down thousands of families” but conceding a failing system had “made the government an enemy of its people”.

Source: Dutch government faces collapse over child benefits scandal | Netherlands | The Guardian

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Jacob Rees Mogg attacks Unicef for feeding the children he has forced to starvation

Jacob Rees-Mogg, making a gesture that well defines him. He’s currently all upset that the failings of his Tory government have prompted Unicef to come to the UK and feed our starving children. It’s a job that the Tory government should have done but couldn’t be bothered to.

Where to start with the latest atrocity from this atrocious Tory?

Yesterday we learned that UNICEF, the United Nations Children’s Fund that provides humanitarian and developmental aid to children across the world, is having to help feed hungry kids in the UK for the first time since it was formed in 1946.

The non-political UN charity is providing £25,000 to two charities – Food School Matters and Food Power – who will partner with Premier Foods and local authorities to help provide breakfast boxes to 1,800 children in south London.

It seems clear that this move has been prompted by the Covid-19 pandemic and the weak response of Boris Johnson’s Tory government.

UNICEF UK spokesperson Anna Kettley told Sky News, “This is an unprecedented situation which requires everyone to roll their sleeves up, step in and support children and families that need it most at this time.”

This is happening because Johnson’s government told millions of parents they had to stop working because of the virus. In doing so, the Tories took responsibility for the well-being of those families – and threw it away.

Instead of ensuring that parents were fully compensated for their lost wages, Rishi Sunak devised a series of schemes that provided only a fraction of what was needed – to only a fraction of the people who needed them.

Now, at what is traditionally the hardest part of the year for many people, the UN’s children’s charity has had to announce that it is stepping in to help.

And how did the Tories greet this timely aid – which will help them as well as the families who will benefit directly, by preventing a human disaster driven by poverty in the world’s fifth-wealthiest country?

Jacob Rees-Mogg condemned it as a political stunt.

He said,

“It’s a real scandal that Unicef should be playing politics in this way when it is meant to be looking after people in the poorest and most deprived countries in the world, where people are starving, where there are famines and there are civil wars – and they make cheap political points of this kind, giving, I think, £25,000 to one council.

“It is a political stunt of the lowest order.”

He added: “Unicef should be ashamed of itself.”

Perhaps I should spend the rest of this article discussing the ingratitude of spoilt little rich boys.

Rees-Mogg has never suffered poverty and does not understand what it is like to be forced into starvation by the actions of others who have power over him. It is unlikely he ever will.

It does not follow that this means he cannot understand the responsibility of those who have power over other people to ensure that they do not harm those others in the exercise of that power. Other rich people have understood this necessity and acted on it.

It just seems that Rees-Mogg – and many others in the Johnson government – aren’t bright enough to understand that they do have a duty of care for people if they’re going to deny them the chance to earn a living for themselves.

This failure of intelligence has extended to the point that they cannot even understand – or at least, that’s what their behaviour suggests – that by stepping in, Unicef is helping the Tories out of a hole that they dug for themselves.

If children were to starve to death over this Christmas period, Rees-Mogg and his brethren would be blamed. And the public may be notoriously fickle but they don’t forget when a politician’s choices kill their families.

So he should be grateful.

Perhaps he just doesn’t like that fact that, rich as he is personally, he needed help from a charity.

Source: Jacob Rees Mogg says Unicef should be ‘ashamed’ for feeding Britain’s hungry kids – Mirror Online

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‘Tis the season to be HOMELESS – especially if you’re a child in Tory Britain

I write this story every year – and every year the number of children who will be homeless at Christmas increases.

The reason is obvious: Conservative government.

Usually I get my figures from Shelter but I haven’t seen the press release yet. Sadly, the Evening Standard is here with figures that make depressing reading – because they are for London alone:

Nearly  90,000 children in the capital are expected to be homeless this Christmas, London Councils warned today.

This compares with 131,000 across the whole of Britain (England, Wales and Scotland) at Christmas last year.

It seems Covid-19 is going to take the blame:

The rate of families being placed in temporary accommodation is spiralling out of control as the pandemic continues to stretch local authority finances and demands for help reached record numbers, the umbrella group said.

It’s a scandalous figure – indicating an appalling increase in child homelessness.

And Boris Johnson’s government must take the blame. The arrival of the virus didn’t mean they could take their eyes off the UK’s other problems.

Indeed, some may argue that Johnson will be delighted by these figures.

We need to await Shelter’s official, national figures to be sure of the extent of this annual tragedy – but this report is advance notice that it will be extremely distressing.

Source: 90,000 London children to be homeless this Christmas, London Councils warn | Evening Standard

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Free speech under attack: McVey attacks Barnardo’s over ‘white privilege’

Mad McVey: she looks like a pop-eyed loon in this image, and she’s been behaving like one in her attack on a beloved children’s charity.

Remember Esther McVile McVey? She was the poster girl for Tory bigotry before Priti Patel and she is still carrying out her vile work.

McVey has returned to headline news with an attack on Barnardo’s – one that could harm the organisation’s position as a charity.

She has said that a blog post by Barnardo’s, which aims to offer a guide to parents on how to talk to their children about racial inequality and white privilege in the UK, is “political”.

Charities are forbidden to campaign on political issues and could lose their status if found to be doing so.

But is it political campaigning when an organisation raises awareness of racism and the fact – fact – that in the UK white people have advantages that other ethnic groups don’t have?

Or is McVile distorting the facts in order to perpetuate the very racism the charity is highlighting?

In an opinion piece unwisely published by the Telegraph, she claimed that Barnardo’s could be “hijacked by people who want to use it as a platform for their political views”.

She said it would jeopardise Barnardo’s fundraising efforts it if it becomes “yet another charity more obsessed with political correctness and virtue signalling than actually helping people in need”.

That is a threat.

And what did Barnardos say, to provoke it?

The blog post states: “For the one in five Barnardo’s service users who are black, Asian or minority ethnic, the colour of their skin is an additional factor that negatively affects them and their families in a multitude of well documented ways.”

The article referenced well evidenced examples of white privilege, including higher employment rates, lower rates of prosecution and sentencing and a longer life expectancy for white people, with black African women having a mortality rate four times higher than white women in the UK.

The blog post states that being white doesn’t mean life is not hard, but it means it is not made harder because of your race.

“Helping children and those who nurture them, to understand what white privilege really means will not only prevent future generations from growing up to ignore race as an issue – but to be actively anti-racist through their actions.”

That all seems perfectly reasonable to This Writer.

But McVile went off the deep end:

McVey said while she will always be “grateful” to Barnardo’s, she was “deeply troubled” by its decision to “divert its attention to political activism”.

She continued: “This is such a misguided and misjudged move away from what the charity is about and what it ought to be doing.

“Barnardo’s is too important a charity to be hijacked by people who want to use it as a platform for their political views.”

On Friday, a group of 12 Conservative MPs reportedly wrote a letter to Barnardo’s chief executive, Javed Khan, to express their “concern and disappointment” over the post.

According to The Guardian, the MPs described the post as “ideological dogma” and “divisive militancy”. They also asked for it to be investigated by the Charity Commission.

So there it is – a threat against Barnardo’s charity status, simply because the charity spoke up about racial inequality.

Perhaps the 12 Tory MPs should be reported to the Equality and Human Rights Commission? Ah, but the EHRC has already refused to investigate Tory racism, hasn’t it? Isn’t that an example of white privilege, right there?

It seems the UK’s governing party is employing that classic DARVO gaslighting technique – deny, attack, reverse victim and oppressor. By claiming Barnardo’s has become political, the Tories are hiding their own racism.

Source: Former minister criticises charity for ‘activism’ and discussing white privilege | The Independent

BBC’s Munchetty calls out Williamson for forcing BAME English children to sit exams. Gammons are furious

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson was put on the back foot over his plan to force disadvantaged black and minority ethnic children in England to sit exams, despite the disruption of Covid-19 – and racists across the UK supported him.

Interviewed by the BBC’s Naga Munchetty, he gave an incoherent performance in which he tried to say that disadvantaged children always fare better in exams than when their results depend on teacher assessments.

Was he basing his claim on the fiasco that he himself caused last summer – when a Tory government-created computer algorithm automatically assigned higher grades to pupils at public schools and artificially lowered those of pupils considered to be disadvantaged, without any reference to the grades that had been predicted for them, if they had been able to take exams as normal?

I think he was.

Look at this:

” Children from the most disadvantaged backgrounds and children from Black and ethnic minorities communities are given the best advantage by sitting examinations and having that test.”

Because it means they won’t fall foul of Williamson’s brutally biased algorithm?

Munchetty interrupted, setting him up for a fall: “I understand from that point then that those disadvantaged children in Wales and Scotland are going to be more disadvantaged because they’re not having exams.”

This should put an obvious further question in viewers’ minds: What if, when it happens, they’re not? What if the Welsh and Scottish systems provide accurate assessments of these pupils’ abilities?

Won’t Williamson – and the government he represents – then appear to be attacking children who are trying to work their way out of the disadvantages that their social positions have forced on them, simply because he can?

Sadly, our thickie Education Secretary didn’t even realise he was walking into a trap, and carried on blithely: “Every study that has been carried out that’s looked at this has shown that predicted grades most disadvantage children from the poorest backgrounds.

“Predicted grades and teacher assessments disadvantage children from Black and ethnic minorities so we do believe exam assessment is the best form.”

His predicted grades, maybe. Teacher assessments were overridden by his predictions, as the huge scandal over school exams last summer made clear.

This Writer thinks we’re going to see a shocking contrast between exam scores for disadvantaged and BAME children in England and those in the rest of the UK next summer.

The kids in England – whether they sit exams or not – or likely to fall far behind those in the other countries, where their abilities will be assessed using a fair system that has nothing to do with Tory algorithms that falsely weight results in favour of kids who are already absurdly privileged.

And Williamson – along with his corrupt Tory pals – will be exposed again.

Of course the gammons in the BBC Breakfast News audience were incensed at Munchetty for daring to hint that their Tory minister might possibly discriminate against people of minority racial backgrounds and the poor (as they have throughout history):

If you check the critics’ bios, you’ll see that most of them are anonymous, with few followers – classic signs of trolls or paid bots.

And it seems they flooded Twitter after the interview in the hope that they could fool you into thinking Munchetty was in the wrong.

She wasn’t. I trust Vox Political readers can think for themselves, rather than be guided by people who are paid to lie to you.

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Gavin Williamson scrapped dozens of protections for children – unlawfully

Williamson the dunce: I know it’s a duff image but it reflects this MP’s abilities so I’ll keep using it as long as he continues to be a dunce.

Tory Education Secretary Gavin Williamson stripped children in care of 65 legal protections illegally, the Court of Appeal has ruled.

Judges said he should have consulted the Children’s Commissioner and other stakeholder organisations before inflicting such a “substantial and wide-ranging” “bonfire of children’s rights”.

The regulations affected included legal timescales for social-worker visits to children in care, six-monthly reviews of children’s welfare, independent scrutiny of children’s homes and senior officer oversight of adoption decision-making for babies and children.

The protections affected also cover disabled children having short breaks and children in care sent many miles away from home.

It seems Williamson did conduct a consultation but was selective about whose opinions he sought – adoption agencies, private providers and local government bodies.

But organisations representing the children and young people who were to be affected by the changes were not consulted and the Children’s Commissioner only found out about the changes after they had been forced through Parliament through the Adoption and Children (Coronavirus) (Amendment) regulations in April.

We are told that all of the changes were temporary and have now expired.

We have yet to hear – may never hear – how many children were harmed as a result of them.

Williamson has been told to run proper consultations in future.

But will he? And doesn’t this simply reignite the debate over whether Conservatives should be allowed anywhere near children in care.

Source: Education secretary ‘unlawfully scrapped children’s rights’ – BBC News

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The Tories have used Covid to abandon children with disabilities and their parents

Money, money, money: Boris Johnson’s government says it is spending billions to help children with special educational needs and disabilities weather the Covid crisis – but they aren’t seeing it. So where is it going?

It may be hard to accept, but Boris Johnson and his cronies have been weaponising Covid-19, using the crisis as an excuse to take support away from vulnerable children.

Parents of children with special educational needs and disabilities have been particularly hard-hit, as Metro‘s report shows:

An Ofsted report into the impact of the first lockdown published this week found that some children lost basic skills and learning as a result of school closures and restrictions on movement.

Turning to SEND children, it found the pandemic has presented ‘serious and far-reaching’ challenges for families, with some feeling ‘isolated’ from existing services.

One parent who spoke to Metro branded the situation a ‘national disgrace’ and said her three-year-old son had received no physio or occupational therapy for nine months.

Another told of a ‘pressure cooker’ environment and the ‘terror’ parents face with no end in sight, as they struggle without services they had previously relied upon in their day-to-day lives.

The response from the Tories’ Department for Education spokesperson gives great emphasis to the amounts of money that have been allocated to help parents and children in this situation.

It mentions “£37million this year to help thousands of low-income families raising disabled or seriously ill children with the challenge they face staying at home”, a “£1billion Covid catch-up fund”, and “increasing high needs funding for local authorities by £780 million this year and a further £730 million next year”.

But who actually receives the cash and what does it actually pay for?

This year we have seen the Tories waste no less than £12 billion on a Covid-19 test, track and trace system that not only doesn’t work but is actually a contamination risk.

So quoting amounts of money allocated to particular projects means nothing.

It is clear from the stories here that these parents and children are not receiving the support they need.

And I, for one, would like to know what the Tories are really doing with that cash.

Source: Exhausted parents of disabled children feel ‘abandoned’ in lockdown | Metro News

Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.

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