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Child Poverty in Scotland — [Sir David Crausby in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 3:27 pm on 30th October 2019.

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Photo of Paul Sweeney Paul Sweeney Shadow Minister (Scotland) 3:27 pm, 30th October 2019

The hon. Gentleman makes a point about tax, but the tax threshold was never met by people on the lowest incomes in the first place, so that measure does not deal with people at that end of the scale. People who already rely on social security benefits have been crushed by the two-child welfare cap that has been mentioned. Those are the things that affect people.

One searing example of that can be found in a recent report by Oxfam, Child Poverty Action Group Scotland and the Poverty Alliance, which addresses the issue of hunger in Scotland. It is an inspiring and chilling report, and the thing that strikes me most is the testimony that it contains. One example is from a lady called Alison. She is typical of many people—usually women—who turn up to my constituency surgeries in horrendous circumstances. A person might be born and brought up in a constituency and live there their whole life, as I have, but they never know the half of it until they become a Member of Parliament and realise what is going on behind closed doors.

Many people are too proud to come and demonstrate that they are suffering and have problems. They do not want to make a spectacle of themselves, and they are upset about having to speak to a Member of Parliament about their circumstances. The example from Alison is particularly egregious. Speaking about the whole issue of food insecurity and the wellbeing of our children, she said:

“My son, throughout the whole of this, was scared to put the heating on. He was scared to put the light on. He was sitting in the dark. He’s not playing his computer. What else is he meant to do when he’s socially isolated? When there’s no money to go on a bus, never mind take him out for the day…When things were on a level, it’s very, very sad to even say, he was just happy that we went for a hot chocolate and a muffin. Now that’s a simple thing. That is not doable anymore.”

Another parent said:

“Me and my daughter used to go everywhere. But now, I don’t have nothing like, so we can’t do anything.”

One mother said:

“I’ve felt suicidal more times than I’ve had hot dinners and that’s no joke.”

That is a true testimony from someone suffering in Scotland now.

To me, it is offensive at a very fundamental level if the great achievements of the welfare state have been rolled back to the extent that people are suffering in this way. Not only is there the shaming need for people to go to food banks and prostrate themselves in front of authority figures to demonstrate that they need help, but we have also removed the social floor that was there for many people. We created the idea that there was a floor beneath which no one would fall and above which everyone could rise. That is how my family progressed, and how I was able to have opportunities that my parents did not have. To think that that has been reversed under this Government is offensive.