I’m proud that for the third year running we have been able to run the Hounslow Christmas Project which I co-founded in 2020 with the Hounslow Education Partnership to help make sure that no child in Hounslow goes without a gift at Christmas.
The project came about after a conversation I had with a mum in Feltham in 2020 who had just lost a relative to Covid. The family were struggling with funeral costs and employment. Her final question was “how will I be able to afford presents for the kids this Christmas?”
She would not have been the only parent asking that question. After discussions with the Hounslow Education Partnership of headteachers, the Reach Foundation, local businesses and community volunteers, we started the Hounslow Christmas Project. In the first year we raised enough in donations to buy, wrap and deliver to schools over 1700 gifts for children in need. This year we have worked with 40 schools from Chiswick to Bedfont and to give 2500 gifts for children and young people across all age groups.
Christmas is a time when so many reach out to help others in need. Many other similarly inspired projects are going on, with community volunteers making a huge difference. This week Rivers Academy hosted a Christmas dinner for 30 local pensioners. Last week I visited Dukes Green Tesco to support their Winter Food Collection and their work with Feltham Food Bank. We know that things are getting harder for families with rising energy prices, food prices and the wider impact of inflation pushing more families into poverty.
Official data shows that child poverty has risen significantly since 2016 in Hounslow. In Feltham and Heston 21.2% of children (over 6500 children) are living in relative poverty, higher than the UK average of 18.7%. The relative child poverty rate is the percentage of children aged 0-15 living in households with income below 60% of the median income, with the majority of these families in work. 20% of lower-income households in London have regularly or occasionally gone without food this year due to their financial situation.
As we look to Christmas and the New Year, it will be a time to look out for friends, neighbours and those across the community who are finding life harder to cope with and to offer a hand of support to help. Many faith groups also continue to support at Christmas and all year round. No one should feel on their own. If you or anyone you know are struggling to make ends meet or to get by with rising costs and demands, please do reach out to the council Community Hub or contact the local councillor or MP and we will do what we can to help. I wish you and your families a very special Christmas and every best wish for 2023.