IT HAS taken me three weeks to be able to express in words the absolute heartbreak of bearing witness to stories of some of the shocking circumstances of poverty being lived by some mothers in Stroud.

These are stories of mothers who are relying on food banks, mothers without cooking equipment, without decent housing – mothers who feel anxious and despairing most of the time.

Some of these mothers have been able to receive vital, life-line support from their local Sure Start centres.

I know how much this support makes a difference because I have worked in Sure Start centres both in London and Stroud, running mother and baby groups.

I will never forget one mother saying to me that she took three buses to come to the centre because it was the only time in the week she “didn’t feel so alone and so down”.

Child poverty is set to rise by 50 per cent over this Parliament whilst Sure Start centres are closing – 156 centres closed last year.

Where does this leave a society that takes pride in being one of the richest countries in the world?

Where does that leave our common belief in a kind society?

Where are we left as mothers in Stroud knowing that a fellow mother of Stroud is in tears today because her children are hungry and wearing shoes that don’t fit?

Most sadly, where does that leave the children who, through their hunger, watch their mothers heartbreak?

I can hardly believe the extent of parent and child poverty, and emotional trauma, in the UK today.

We must be more determined than ever to work for changes in government policy and practice, and ultimately to campaign for Labour Party governance which will respect the basic needs of mothers and children.

Skeena Rathor

Stroud Central Labour Party District Councillor