I was pleased to join the newly-constituted APPG for Ending the Need for Foodbanks this month and delighted to be elected as its Vice-Chair. I’d like to thank to the Independent Food Aid Network, Child Poverty Action Group and the Trussell Trust who spoke so powerfully about the need to tackle poverty & inequality.
Food banks have struggled to meet demand during the pandemic, which is why I launched the Manchester Gorton Foodbank Map to help people easily locate food banks and donation points across the constituency.
In November, the Government announced a further £170 million of funding for local authorities to help provide support to children, families and the most vulnerable over winter. Local authorities will receive the funding at the beginning of December, and it will cover the period until the end of March 2021. It also announced that the Holiday Activities and Food Programme, which provides healthy food and activities to disadvantaged children, will be made available to every local authority in England next year during Easter, Summer and Christmas. The Government also pledged an additional £16 million funding for food distribution charities.
While I welcomed these announcements, I remain concerned that the social security system in this country does not give people the support they need during difficult times. A report published by the Trussell Trust in October 2020 stated that it saw an 89% increase in the number of emergency food parcels given out in April 2020, compared with April 2019. We urgently need a new social security system with dignity and respect at its heart, which provides a basic standard of living for everyone.
I agree with the Trussell Trust that the Government must not cut Universal Credit next April. I also agree that the £20-a-week increase should be applied to legacy benefits including Jobseeker’s Allowance and Employment and Support Allowance.
I look forward to working with APPG colleagues from across the house on holding the Government to this promise to do whatever it takes to help councils get through the coronavirus pandemic.
Foodbanks must not be a long-term solution to poverty.