Indeed, I praise all the voluntary organisations, particularly in my own constituency, that have stepped up to provide food banks at a time when poverty has been stark, and the many faith organisations that have stepped in to help during these times.
I know from my own experience what it is like to be a child on free school meals despite both parents working, and what that means for survival, progress and opportunity. In communities like mine, this Government have normalised hunger, poverty and hopelessness. Some 42% of children in Leicester East live in poverty. Years of austerity combined with insecure employment means that an estimated 44,000 children in Leicestershire are living below the poverty line, even though the vast majority—31,000—have at least one parent who has a job. The fact that a job no longer provides a route out of poverty, or even guarantees that our children will be fed, represents an unforgivable breakdown of our social contract.
Before covid-19, 51% of children in one area of my constituency were in child poverty—and that was before this unprecedented crisis. Nearly 6,000 households in Leicester East are in fuel poverty, meaning that 14% of schoolchildren in my constituency are living in a situation where parents are forced to make the impossible choice between keeping their family warm or going hungry.
Beyond school meals, this Government have completely failed young people in Leicester in terms of education.