Holiday Hunger Schemes

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 3:41 pm on 6th November 2018.

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Photo of Alison Thewliss Alison Thewliss Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Treasury), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Housing, Communities and Local Government) 3:41 pm, 6th November 2018

I absolutely agree. If no Minister is responsible for it, it is easy to pass the buck, ignore it and say, “It’s not my job.” It has to be somebody’s job, but it is nobody’s job. That is an important point.

A point that is often missed in debates about child poverty, hunger and food banks is the cost of infant formula. A report that the all-party parliamentary group on infant feeding and inequalities will launch soon details that the cost of infant formula has increased, but the wages in people’s pockets and healthy start vouchers have not kept pace, so families have to make the impossible choice between feeding themselves or feeding their infants.

The Chancellor said that austerity is ending soon—perhaps, maybe—but it will be a very long time before families in my constituency feel any change. There is no denying that, over the past 10 years, austerity has been a huge underlying driver of child poverty in Scotland and across the UK. The Scottish Government are doing what they can to mitigate the effects of the cuts, but the actions that can be taken are limited. Their analysis shows that, this year, 130,000 more children in Scotland could be pushed into poverty as a result of the UK Government’s welfare cuts. That is approximately the population of Dundee. If the number of children in poverty can fill a whole city, something has gone drastically wrong.

Universal credit has started to be rolled out in my constituency, and will hit the Shettleston jobcentre on 5 December. Somebody applying for universal credit on the very first day of the roll-out at the Shettleston jobcentre will not get any money until 9 January. The Government often say that people can get advances, but they push people below what the Government say they need to live on for a year as they clear that debt. That is absolutely unacceptable. They rob themselves in advance to get an advance on universal credit.

I have always found the idea of independence for Scotland attractive, but I do not want it for its own ends. I want it so we can have a Government that we elect, not a Government that chooses austerity over the future of our children.