Thank you for contacting me about child poverty. I fully appreciate your concerns on this important issue and have taken note of your comments. Please know I am fully supportive of the continuation of the Universal Credit uplift while we are still in the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic. I have made and continue to make representations to Government to act on this.
I can assure you that eradicating child poverty is an absolute priority. I proudly stood on a manifesto that pledged to continue efforts through the tax and benefits system to reduce poverty, including child poverty. I firmly believe that children should grow up in an environment with no limits to their potential and I am pleased the Government is making it a priority to put more money in the pockets of low-paid workers.
The way we measured child poverty in the past, based on median income, was deeply flawed. For example, by this measure the number of children in poverty went down significantly during the last economic recession. That is why new measures have been introduced to focus on the root causes of poverty, chief among them being educational attainment and levels of work within a family.
I am encouraged by the Prime Minister’s clear commitment to do whatever it takes to support people during the Coronavirus crisis, and I welcome that this has included a number of measures to protect children and ensure no child goes hungry. Due to the pandemic, I know that many children and parents in our constituency faced an entirely unprecedented situation over the summer. To reflect this, additional funding was provided for a ‘Covid Summer Food Fund’ which enabled children who are eligible for free school meals to receive food vouchers covering the 6-week holiday period.
This is part of the wider support available for children and families at this challenging time. I am delighted that an additional £63 million has been distributed to local authorities in England to help those who are struggling to afford food and other essentials. In addition, Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit have been temporarily uplifted by around £1,000 a year as part of an injection of over £9.3 billion into the welfare system.
Finally, I am also really pleased that the Government listened to our cross-party EFRA Select Committee’s (on which I sit) call for them to extend the FairShare Scheme through the winter. This welcome increase in funding provided additional support to provide fresh and healthy food to some of the most vulnerable folk in society.
You may also be interested to see the inquiry we on the EFRA Select Committee held on food supply issues during the pandemic, where we looked at many of these related areas:
I will be keeping a close watch on this issue and will do all I can to ensure our children are protected from poverty.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me and share your concerns.