Labour called a debate on the worrying rise in food banks, which have fed over a million people in the last year alone. The debate was called following the publication of a cross-party report last week which identified benefit changes and delays as one of the key factors forcing people to rely on charity to feed themselves. Emma was a lead member of this inquiry team, which visited South Shields to take evidence from charities and food bank users in July.
Speaking in the House of Commons, Emma said:
“Food poverty is a clear consequence of the Government’s ideological assault on the social safety net and the people who rely on it. One hungry person is a complete disgrace, but thousands of hungry people are a national disaster.
“I want us to try to consign this age of hunger to the history books. I know that that can best be achieved under a Labour Government.”
You can read Emma’s full speech in the debate by clicking here.
The Feeding Britain report called for a number of changes to the benefits system to make it fairer to claimants, after evidence it received showing that an increase in harsh sanctions and benefit delays was leading to more people going hungry.
In South Shields the local KEY Project charity told the inquiry that the number of people coming to them for emergency food because of sanctions had doubled in less than a year. Other agencies explained that people were being cut off from their only means of support because of honest mistakes, or because they were five minutes late for an appointment.
Serious delays to the new disability benefit known as the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) have also seen disabled people having to wait over a year for the support they are entitled to.
The Government has said it will consider the report’s recommendations, but a spokesman for the Prime Minister ruled out making changes to the sanctions system.
Speaking after the debate, Emma said:
“It is unbelievable that the Government continues to deny that welfare reform is causing people to go hungry. Our inquiry travelled all over the country, and there was not a single place where benefit delays and sanctions were not the number one issue. It is insulting for the Government to ignore the experiences of those people.
“Our inquiry made clear recommendations that the Government should be addressing low pay, rising prices and the unfairness in the benefits system. If this Government won’t take those forward, a Labour government will.”