Supporting Disadvantaged Families

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:23 pm on 9th November 2020.

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Photo of Neil Gray Neil Gray Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Work and Pensions) 5:23 pm, 9th November 2020

I thank the Secretary of State for advance sight of the statement. I am just sorry to say that as welcome as some of these measures are, they are just not enough. They will serve only to partially catch up with where Scotland has been for some time. When the Scottish Government introduced their Best Start Foods payment last year—the equivalent of the Healthy Start payment—they had already increased it to £4.25. The Scottish Government have also gone beyond their £70 million food fund commitment and made over £130 million available to tackle food insecurity caused by the pandemic.

On free school meals, I am delighted that the UK Government appear finally to be relenting to the incredible campaign run by Marcus Rashford. The decision today will no doubt be welcomed by the same Scottish Tories who failed to support it only two weeks ago. The UK Government are only starting to give free school meals in the holidays from next year, whereas the Scottish Government committed last month to making £10 million available to extend free school meals into the Christmas holidays and Easter. The need is now. That is why it is so welcome that the new Scottish child payment, described as game-changing by anti-poverty campaigners, opens for applications today, with payments starting early in the new year.

There has been nothing on the two-child cap, nothing on the five-week wait—those advances should be made into grants—and nothing on the temporary uplift to universal credit. In response to the significant campaign led by the Scottish National party, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Save the Children and others, which is now supported by the Secretary of State’s predecessors at the DWP and the leader of the Scottish Conservatives, the Treasury has been flirting with extending the much-needed increase to universal credit—and no wonder. Even with the temporary £20 a week extra, the Secretary of State knows that those who are out of work are £1,000 worse off today compared with 2011.

Will the Secretary of State put it on the record today that she expects the temporary uplift to universal credit to be made permanent and, so that there is no longer the unfairness of sick and disabled people on legacy benefits not getting the same, will she finally commit to extending the uplift to legacy benefits?