What Rethink thinks; Half Term Heroes and How to Help

Article by Tanya Leary

Ever since the Government voted against extending free school meals last week I have been churned up with a horrible mix of guilt and gratitude, rage and frustration and the constant question of ‘What can we do…? How can we help?’

Ever since I started working with children and young people my mantra has been; if it’s not good enough for my kids, it’s not good enough and so the idea that any child should be allowed to go hungry is unthinkable for me; and clearly, the vast majority of others. Almost as soon as the news broke cafes across the country took to social media to invite anyone that needed support to contact them confidentially and that food would be provided no questions asked. Compassion and empathy in action, it warmed my heart but I still couldn’t shake the sadness that it had to come to this in the first place; why don’t the Government understand the situation that some people are in? 

And then I remembered all of the questions and holier than thou statements that I endured when I was working with families at risk and I remembered that some people like to blame and pigeon hole and keep their distance from the reality because it makes them feel uncomfortable and, once you open the pandoras box of how has it come to this, you realise that there is a hell of a lot of work to do to level things up and perhaps that’s just not on their agenda. 

Take for example my day yesterday:

  • I drove my girls to their drama class meaning that I then had 3.5 hours child free and we all had a break from each other. 
  • I had the luxury of a run with my husband- we discussed plans for the week, caught up on each others news and enjoyed some kid free time in the fresh air. HEAD SPACE. 
  • I was able to write a meal plan and a shopping list and drive to the supermarket without them so I was spared all of the ‘can we have…can we have’ pestering. 
  • I was able to buy the biggest, best value bag of pasta knowing that not only did I have space to store it when I got home but that I could also take it from trolley to car, not have to lug it home or carry it on the bus. 
  • I was able to check the bargain aisle knowing that I have a freezer that I can afford to switch on and isn’t just an ice compartment at the top of a fridge so I can batch cook and freeze ahead and make the most of what’s on special offer. 
  • I was able to arrive at the till without having mentally calculated what I could afford all the way round or feel the panic and anxiety as each item it beeped through. 

If you’re living on benefits or you’re a low-income family almost all of that is off the table for you. It is a different world with less time, headspace, less fuel, less everything really and it is such a hard hard situation to claw your way out of. If you think I’m exaggerating for effect watch Growing Up Poor, watch I Daniel Blake. This is real life. This isn’t a level playing field by any stretch of the imagination so, this really, really isn’t about who provides some crisps and butties for a week. It is about making sure that people understand that we aren’t all starting from the same position and making allowances for that. It is about caring enough to understand why 1.4 million children desperately need these meals in the first place and figuring out what services and scaffolding and care is needed to support those in need when OR- better still, provide the opportunities so that less people are in that position because YES Philip Davies MP, I absolutely agree that parents should primarily be responsible for feeding their children and they are desperate to but until that time, thank god for all of those who understand that if it’s not good enough for their kids, it’s not good enough. THE END. 

Here is a list of the organisations providing free lunches- please do check on their social pages incase booking is needed or you have to make contact in advance. 

BIRKENHEAD:

  • Zero Clucks Given 
  • 3B’s Cafe  
  • No 7 Café 

PRENTON & TRANMERE: 

  • Tilly Mint Treats  
  • Born & Bred Coffee Shop
  • Nemesis Coffee Shop
  • Bella Rose Hair & Beauty

WOODCHURCH: 

  • Cathy’s hot & cold takeaway

ROCK FERRY: 

  • The Bedford ‘Luke’s’ 

WALLASEY: 

  • Stanley’s Seaview Road
  • Village Fish & Chips
  • Puddos 
  • The Lighthouse Inn 
  • Little Bear Fudgery 
  • Stollies Cafe 

UPTON: 

  • Bake My Day
  • The Stonehouse Cafe 
  • Charlottes Kitchen 

MORETON: 

  • Last Course
  • The Green Hut

BEBINGTON & SPITAL : 

  • Scoffee 
  • Kings Arms 
  • Muzzy’s Breakfast House 
  • Yankies Sweets and Treats
  • Big Chef 
  • Our Coffee Shop 

HESWALL, PENSBY & THURSTASTON

  • Wylde Coffee 
  • Barcode Café
  • Flissy’s Coffee Shop at GJ’s
  • Fine Fruits Direct 

WEST KIRBY & HOYLAKE 

  • Aubergine Cafe
  • Hectors Sandwich Shop
  • Nine Leaves Tea Lounge

Quirky Café

MEOLS: 

  • Heima Coffee  
  • The Railway 
  • The Grange – Moreton 
  • The Village Cafe – Bromborough 
  • Number 7 Cafe – Birkenhead 

LISCARD, SEACOMBE & NEW BRIGHTON:

  • Remember When Wirral 
  • The Willow Tree
  • Seacombe Social Club

If you are in a position to support this cause there are several ways that you can donate:

Supporting Wirral Food Bank– set up your own reverse advent calendar to make sure that no one goes without this Christmas 

Check out Wirral support during COVID which is gathering gifts and donations to support anyone in need at this time 

Follow Frank Fields Facebook page which regularly updates with details of where to access support or where you might be able to donate or volunteer your help 

Donate to the crowd funder set up by Jamie from Wylde to enable the cafes listed above to continue to support families across this half term and if necessary beyond. 

A friend of mine Sam has also set up a fundraising page and suggests that if you ‘Ate out to Help out’ but could have paid the full price, you donate the saving back to support those that need it. 

Rethink Now CIC will continue to add to this post as new suggestions and information comes in. 

Sending all of the half term heroes lots of love. 

#PeopleneedPeople 

#CommunityMatters #Everychildmatters

Has COVID called time on school traffic?

This article was originally published in the October 2020 edition of Heswall Magazine.

With driving such an easy option for many, and busy routines meaning lots of parents need to get straight to work, we have created the perfect storm of noisy, polluted, unsafe routes to school for our children.

My own morning routine might not be so different to many others. Where are their shoes? Have they brushed their teeth? Why aren’t they eating their breakfast?! These are all things that go through my head from 8am until 8.40am each week day morning before a mad dash to the front door and our short journey to school.

Our journey is done by bicycle which is not massively unusual. The bike sheds at our primary schools in Bebington are full of bikes and scooters each morning. Many others walk as well, in fact the majority of people at our school travel in a healthy, sustainable way. It’s easy to forget that though, as the noise and the smell from the mass of idling cars is often quite overwhelming, as is the levels of anxiety when we come to cross the various roads on our daily trip.

Rethink Now CIC was setup almost solely because of the horror of the school run. There came a point where my eldest son was too fast to ride on the pavement so we were left with a choice – take to the road or start to walk instead. Walking is a beautiful thing but I didn’t feel like we should back down, so we took to the road. If you haven’t cycled on a busy road with a 6 year old to look out for then I can highly recommend it. If you look at the pinned video at the top of my Twitter profile you’ll see what I mean.

We took this energy and ran a small scale air quality testing project with children and parents back in 2018. The results were not surprising. Each day we walked in with a different child and each day the air pollution dramatically worsened near to the school gates. We would rightly frown and (possibly) complain if a parent was smoking a cigarette near kids, so why don’t we react the same way when a child is forced to breathe in a lung full of diesel fumes? Driving is so habitual for many of us but I think we all know that a rethink is needed.

Help is now at hand thanks to ‘School Streets’. These are timed road closures around primary schools that restrict cars with the aim of reducing harmful air pollution, calming streets to enable more walking, cycling and scooting and forcing the issue on climate action (far too many car journeys are of less than a mile – a distance that can easily be walked or cycled). Hundreds of these School Streets schemes exist in London – Hackney have lead the way – and Wirral Council have agreed to test six schemes across our borough in the coming months.

Would schools in Heswall benefit from this? Can you imagine a Heswall where parents, teachers and children all arrive at work on two wheels or on foot? It happens at scale in other parts of the world and it can happen here too. I’m writing this in the midst of ‘Bike To School Week’ in the UK. The weather is turning but still the bike sheds are full. I imagine a future where masses of extra bike/scooter parking is needed. A future where even staff cycle to work and car parks are given back to pupils to learn and to grow things.

Imagine! If you’d like to learn more about School Streets and sustainable transport then please do get in touch via rethinknow.uk.

Still banging on about bikes… join us- PLEASE

Yesterday we did something amazing as a family for the first time.

We went on a bike ride.

ALL TOGETHER.

ALL ON BIKES.

ALL AT THE SAME TIME!!!

AND…FURTHER MORE…WE WENT ON THE ACTUAL REAL LIFE ROADS. WOWZER!

I am made up- this is a big deal for us and, even bigger when I consider that today the girls and I did it again, without the aid of the most able and confident cyclist in our gang- Mr L.

Our girls are 7 and 8 and I am 40 this year so it’s not as if we are breaking any world records or anything but for us it is note worthy and, judging from the conversations I have had with lots of other parents, we aren’t alone! Not everyone is as confident as Will and Ed on two wheels; they are the exception rather than the norm- in this country at least.

This might not sound major to many people but, for me, the prospect of riding on a main road with my children would have been pretty much unthinkable until lockdown. The roads were too busy, too noisy, too dangerous, too damn scary for me to even consider it – despite being a director for a CIC whose principal focus is getting people out of cars and reducing our carbon footprints. I am happy to walk, happy to run, happy with public transport and, as a family we actively try to live active and environmentally conscious lives so, it is saying something if I lacked the confidence to regularly ride on the roads.

Infact; quieter roads have not been the only plus point of lockdown in my opinion. It has given us the opportunity to really explore some of the gorgeous green spaces we have on our doorstep- Caldy Hill and Arrowe Park, Heswall Shore, The Dales and Dungeons to name a few. Having lived on Wirral for much of my life I knew the usual suspects- West Kirby, The Wirral Way, The Marshes at Parkgate but so much more opened up to us as soon as the option of jumping in the car was off the agenda. During the past 12 weeks we have run, walked, cycled and scooted closer to home far more than we ever made time for previously and we are all the better for it.

Getting out alone and into some green space has been a real balm for me over these last few months. Watching the sunrise, hearing the birds, seeing the squirrels, it has all enabled me to retain or more accurately, regain, a sense of calm. Without it, I think I would have found this time much more challenging.

This enforced ‘lockdown’ or ‘slowdown’ has afforded us the opportunity to glimpse at how life could be with

  • The option to work from home regularly
  • Flexitime
  • More family time
  • More time in nature
  • Less traffic on our roads
  • A slower pace of life generally and an opportunity to really access what is important.

It is a life I believe we could all gain so much from and, as the lockdown continues to ease it is imperative that we don’t allow all of these gains to slip away. For so many of our European neighbours cycling is a way of life- far more common than the car for the school run, the commute or the shopping- could this be a part of our ‘new normal’?

Rethink Now are determined to be a part of the “What now” conversation- the discussion on what needs to happen to keep people cycling, keep people walking and make sure that people don’t automatically revert to the car whilst public transport services are squeezed due to social distancing measures.

To do this, we really need your help;

A tool has gone online to enable you to highlight locations that need to be improved for pedestrians and cyclists across Wirral during the COVID-19 crisis and potentially longer term if the changes are well received.

If there is an area that you feel needs to be changed or improved say, due to excessive pavement parking, too many cars near your kids school or feeling roads are unsafe for cycling PLEASE do take the time to comment- you can highlight as many locations as you want and provide as much detail as necessary to help the council decide what changes will be made where. The more people that comment the more evidence there is to say that as a peninsula we want access to safe, green modes of transport. We want an alternative to the car that feels safe and convenient. We want to enjoy our local area on two wheels or on foot- whatever our age or ability.

The site is really quick and easy to use – click the orange ‘Have your say’ button, scroll/zoom to the part of the map you want to comment on, drop a pin and fill out the quick form before submitting.

https://wirralliveablestreets.commonplace.is

There is also one for Chester if that is applicable for you, and Liverpool too!

And- if furlough is giving you more time than you know what to do with; you could also email your local councillors regarding any safety concerns and the importance of walking/cycling- what difference it has made to your area in lockdown and why you feel it is necessary. Councillors just aren’t hearing enough from people about this stuff and unless it feels like a priority to them other things will take precedence.  – quite often they are hearing a lot by way of complaints about not enough parking, lack of access for cars, complaints about pesky cyclists on the pavement, etc. We need to turn the tide on this in a massive way as we face down the COVID crisis that will merge into our environmental crisis. Find your councillors here and let them know that this stuff is important.

https://democracy.wirral.gov.uk/mgFindMember.aspx

Covid has been a truly horrific time for so many – it is important that we do all we can to capture any grains of goodness and help them grow. We believe this is possible; do you?

Join us on our mission:

  • Cleaner, greener places
  • Connected communities
  • Happier People
  • Healthier Planet

Please use the links above to share this post across your social and encourage as many people as possible to share their views – positive or constructive on the site. You can also tell any friends and family that aren’t on SM too- it is important to reach as many people as possible. The deadline is 31st August but, now is good!