Peter Clement, food and poverty policy advisor, Compassion Campaign
It’s the end of week seven of the government’s three-week crisis response plan, and all these measures fail to tackle the root cause of poverty. As a country, we are still failing those most vulnerable people in our society. At the heart of this is inequality, and as a country we have seen progress on inequality for the first time in more than 30 years. It would be unfair to place all the blame on this government. Prior governments of all stripes have used the welfare state to fuel a very different, and more unequal society. We can’t just assume that welfare reforms will solve everything.
It is absolutely right that we consider the role food banks play in supporting vulnerable people, particularly when they are growing at such a rapid rate. We must consider all the angles of this when looking at the impact that these measures will have. And we must be willing to acknowledge that there are complex issues, which mean that nothing can ever be a substitute for longer-term planning that strengthens families and communities.
Inequality, however, is an economic problem. We need to build an economy that works for everyone, not just those at the top, which is why we are campaigning to get a new long-term plan from the government.
Rachel Johnson, member of Parliament, Conservative and spokesman for England rural affairs
The review itself is too positive. The government is failing to address the problems caused by the rise in inequality. The existence of food banks does not tell us about the causes of hunger or the impact of government austerity. One in seven children in the UK live in poverty. It is a scandal that one in nine children are classed as living in poverty, and one in six in south-east England.
Rapes are increasingly reported. How many children – siblings, parents – are victims of abuse? They are isolated and unable to get the support they need. From single parents to carers, they cannot keep up with rent or find the time or money to make ends meet.
Rises in violence in Northern Ireland, from knife attacks and domestic abuse to stalking, are turning into a national crisis. These crimes and other kinds of abuse are ruining people’s lives, and countless lives are at risk.
The Church of England recently warned the government that failing to provide emergency support is a devastating abuse of humanity. There are millions of young people growing up in poverty. They are going to school, getting to work, getting schoolwork done, contributing to our communities, driving our economy and contributing to the future prosperity of the UK. They may be struggling to feed themselves, and if the government is not making their situation easier then their chances of rearing up for something better are much less likely.
Poverty continues to be a national emergency, and much needs to be done to end it. This government’s response has been insufficient, slow, and undermined by an ideological obsession with cuts to those whose struggles are most visible. It is only by committing to policy change that we will tackle this crisis.