Foodbank and children’s charities fear for staff safety due to contagious new Covid-19 strain

Foodbank charities have written to Prime Minister Boris Johnson calling for urgent action to reduce demand for their services amid the latest Covid-19 lockdown.

The Independent Food Aid Network has written to Johnson with an urgent request to reduce the need for emergency food aid during the lastest lockdown.

The lockdown has been announced this week by Johnson to curb the spread of a highly infectious variant of Covid-19.

The organisation, which represents more than. 400 food banks, is concerned that the highly contagious new strain could put its staff, volunteers and beneficiaries at risk as they collect food.

Self-isolating measures may also see food banks close or offer a reduced service.

“We firmly believe that to protect public health and limit further transmission of the new strainof Covid-19,the Government must reduce footfall to food banks,” says the Network's letter.

Action being called for includes ring fenced funding for councils to provide cash grants to disadvantaged families. Universal Credit needs to be uplifted permanently and a five week wait for the first payment needs to end, adds their letter.

Further changes to benefits are also needed, including removing a cap on payments and the current two-child limit.

The Network’s letter adds: “The distribution of emergency food parcels cannot address worsening poverty and, in the context of escalating infection rates,their provision could well contribute to the spread of Covid-19 in the UK population.

“We call on the UK Government to take immediate action to reduce the need for emergency food aid as well as the risk of infection at this critical time and would welcome an urgent response to this letter.”

Children’s charities raise safety fears

Safety fears have also been raised this week by charities representing early years children’s services.

The #ProtectEarlyYears has been launched by the charities Early Years Alliance, Professional Association for Childcare and Early Year and the National Day Nurseries Association, which represent pre-school childcare providers.

They want to see childcare staff prioritised for vaccinations, mass testing in nurseries as well as further funding.

The call comes after the government ordered early years settings to stay open during lockdown, despite schools and colleges closed for most pupils.

The government says the settings are low risk environments but, according to the charities, “has so far failed to provide any specific evidence about the rates of transmission of the new variant of Covid-19” among young children.

“It is simply not acceptable that, at the height of a global pandemic, early years providers are being asked to work with no support, no protection and no clear evidence that is safe for them to do so,” said Early Years Alliance chief executive Neil Leitch.

NDNA chief executive Purnima Tanuku added: “The sector must be supported now and cannot be an afterthought for Ministers.”

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