Nick Clegg refuses to admit link between Coalition welfare changes and food poverty

July 11, 2014

130904 - Emma Lewell Buck smallFollowing last week’s visit by the All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Hunger and Food Poverty, Emma explained to the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg how people in South Shields had told the  Inquiry that Coalition Policy was forcing them to turn to food banks.

Speaking at Deputy Prime Minister’s Questions, Emma asked Nick Clegg whether he stood by his previous statement that linking the rise in food bank use to his Government’s welfare reform was an “exaggeration”.

Emma asked the Deputy Prime Minister:

“Earlier this year, the Deputy Prime Minister said it was an exaggeration to suggest that rising food poverty was linked to the coalition’s welfare reforms, yet when the all-party inquiry into hunger and food poverty visited South Shields last week, we heard person after person say that benefit delays and sanctions had led them to rely on handouts. Does the Deputy Prime Minister think my constituents are exaggerating?”

The Deputy Prime Minister said that he took the issue “extremely seriously” and claimed that poverty was lower now than when the Coalition took office. You can read Emma’s question and the response in full by clicking here.

But Nick Clegg’s claims about falling poverty do not match up with the reality.  On child poverty, for example, he claims that there are 300,000 fewer children in poverty than there were in 2010, but the number of children in absolute poverty actually rose by 300,000.

And it does not match up with what MPs heard from food bank users in South Shields. Those who attended said that they had turned to charity because they could no longer afford their weekly shop.  Many had seen their benefits delayed or had been unfairly sanctioned, while others were in work but found that their wages were simply too low for them to afford to feed their families.

The national food bank charity, the Trussell Trust, reports that half of all referrals made last year were due to benefit delays or sanctions.  In 2010, when the Coalition came to power, the Trust provided 61,468 people with three days of emergency food aid.  That number is now 913,138.

Speaking after Deputy Prime Minister’s Questions, Emma said:

“The Deputy Prime Minister couldn’t deny the clear link between rising food bank use and the policies he and his party supported.  Nearly every person who spoke to the Food Poverty Inquiry last week said that low pay, benefit delays and sanctions were driving food poverty up in our area – these are all trends his Government is responsible for.

“Nick Clegg has some nerve to attack the record of the last Labour government, which reduced child and pensioner poverty year on year, when under his own Government more than a million people have had to turn to charity just to feed themselves.”

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