Snow shuts schools and welfare services

By Jonathan Kalmus and Robyn Rosen, January 7, 2010
A big freezer: Eli Heinman and Adam Brunt with a giant snowman  built for charity outside the Meat Mart kosher store in Manchester

A big freezer: Eli Heinman and Adam Brunt with a giant snowman built for charity outside the Meat Mart kosher store in Manchester

Heavy snow in the north on Tuesday threw Jewish school and welfare services into chaos. And there were problems for London communal organisations as the snow reached the capital on Wednesday.

In Manchester, there was no school for the Manchester King David’s 1,400 infant, junior and high school pupils. Snow was 12 inches deep in the playgrounds on Tuesday morning and infant school governors’ chair Simon Rosenthal said some staff had walked four miles to the Crumpsall premises, having been unable to travel by car or tram. “It’s just impossible,” he said.

The Broughton Jewish and Prestwich strictly Orthodox primaries also gave snow days to around 900 children. The North Cheshire Primary in south Manchester used local radio stations to warn parents of its 260 pupils about its closure. Deputy head Karen Morris said the company which runs its bus service from Altrincham had refused to operate in the conditions.

Home-based welfare provision had been severely affected, with the Federation of Jewish Services’ Shelley Lewis reporting “a crisis service. Only eight of our 48 staff have managed to get in. We’re calling clients and taking shopping lists because they can’t get out.”

The Nicky Alliance Day Centre closed its doors and the Manchester Jewish Soup Kitchen, which normally sends out 80 meals-on-wheels, cancelled deliveries, having warned clients to keep extra supplies in their homes.

It was a similar situation in Leeds where treacherous conditions on the roads around the Brodetsky Primary School kept all but 50 of its 300 pupils away. And those who made it were not there for long. Deputy head Anne Coren said sliding cars and worsening conditions meant “we’re just trying to get our pupils home safely”.

Leeds Jewish Care Services reported huge disruption. Carer manager Alison Wilcock said 50 carers were trying to reach clients on foot. “They’re really risking life and limb in the compacted ice to get to all urgent cases. We’ve cancelled all non-urgent tasks.” In Liverpool, the 1,000-pupil King David schools were shut on Wednesday.

Most London area schools were closed on Wednesday. An exeception was JFS in Kenton, where most pupils made it in. But with no let-up in the weather, they were sent home at lunchtime. Hasmonean students due to sit a French A-level were informed that their exam would be rescheduled.

Elsewhere, volunteers at Bikur Cholim D’Satmar, providing welfare assistance to the strictly Orthodox community in Stamford Hill, worked well into the early hours trying to organise extra carers for disabled children whose schools were closed.

Bikur’s Chava Weiss added: “Even though we found it very difficult to find drivers, we also still managed to send 90 hot meals out and the drivers sat with the people while they ate to make sure they were all right.”

Jewish Care reported that its residential homes and home care service were fully operational. Director of care services Neil Taylor said: “The majority of our day centres are open and where clients are unable to make it in safely, our staff will be staying in contact with them to make sure that they are safe, warm and well provided for.”

Last updated: 4:12pm, January 7 2010