Inequality and Social Mobility

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:45 pm on 12th June 2019.

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Photo of Margaret Greenwood Margaret Greenwood Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions 4:45 pm, 12th June 2019

I will not give way any further, because a lot of people have put in to speak.

Even graduates who have been on free school meals earn 11% less than their peers five years after graduating. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation reported that 1.5 million were living in destitution in 2017, including—shockingly —365,000 children.

The last Labour Government understood the importance of tackling child poverty and set statutory targets for reducing it based on household income, with a co-ordinated strategy across Government that took 1.1 million children out of poverty. Despite that, the Government abolished those targets and only continued to publish figures for poverty at all after pressure from Labour and voluntary organisations. Will the Secretary of State assure us that the Government will wake up to the crisis in child poverty rather than wasting time by coming up with alternative criteria and trying to dispute the figures, as they have done so far?

We know from the Trussell Trust that Government policy has played a key role in the sharp rise in food bank use. In 2018-19, it distributed around 1.6 million emergency food parcels, of which nearly 600,000 went to children. Low incomes, delays in benefit payments and changes to benefits were the key reasons that people turned to the trust for help. It has made the link clear between universal credit and increased food bank use and it is campaigning, alongside other voluntary organisations such as Citizens Advice, for Government action to end the five-week wait for an initial universal credit payment. It is absolutely right to do so.