Today I hosted the Parliamentary launch of the Trussell Trust report: ‘Left behind: Is Universal Credit really Universal’. This research looked at the impact Universal Credit on the rise of foodbank use across our country. Demand for emergency food rations has risen year on year since 2010 and now requires an army of 40,000 volunteers to supply.
This report covered the personal experiences of nearly 300 Universal Credit claimants and put forward constructive proposals for how the Government could improve Universal Credit to ensure it works better for the people it is meant to support. Despite this being a large sample and bigger than some of the evidence base DWP uses to justify its clunky system, Ministers are attempting to dismiss the report as ‘anecdotal’.
This shameful response is an insult to the Trussell Trust, whose vital work now provides 1.3 million packages of help to people in crisis as a direct consequence of Government policy. Ministers are dismissing the damage DWP policies are doing – and not just as a side effect, but as a requirement of inbuilt and unavoidable delays to accessing crucial help. The five week delay before Universal Credit payments are received at the earliest is just one example of state-sponsored poverty damaging the lives of thousands of families.
Half a million children using foodbanks in the UK is not ‘anecdotal’. The catastrophic maladministration of our social security net is contributing to destitution and must not be dismissed. The Government must examine the report and food poverty more widely and stop pretending the DWP crumbling, ‘computer says no’ automated systems are up to the job of delivering the support to which people are entitled.
The biggest foodbank network in the country states that 24 percent of the people they help turn up after benefit delays, and a further fifth because of benefit changes. To dismiss this as ‘anecdotal’ is to perpetuate the difficulties people face and ignore the extent of the problem. It also represents the extension of the hostile environment from the Home Office to another key area of Government policy. Junior Green, Judy Griffiths and Kenneth Williams were initially dismissed as ‘anecdotal’ cases before the Home Office was forced to admit its horrendous treatment of the Windrush generation. Trussell Trust has been working to flag up what the drivers for the massive rise in demand for foodbanks has been and Ministers should stop attempting to evade public concerns.
In my borough, Southwark, the rollout of Universal Credit has had a dramatic impact. It has driven thousands of local people into debt and destitution. Southwark Foodbank reported handing out over 4,000 parcels last year – and this is on top of other churches and mosques that offer additional support. Every week I see people struggling with this system and who cannot comprehend the Government’s attempt to justify the hardships it imposes on British people. A system that even prevents people being able to eat properly. I have to refer people to foodbanks every week and even keep some basic hygiene, sanitary, baby products and dry foods in my constituency office to provide emergency provisions on the spot, mostly donated by local party members.
The Government’s response cannot be as blinkered as it was initially with Windrush families. The same permissive, dismissive undercurrent that allowed the Windrush scandal to happen must also be driven out of DWP.
Neil Coyle is the MP for Bermondsey and Old Southwark and Chair of the APPG on Foodbanks
Today I hosted the Parliamentary launch of the Trussell Trust report: ‘Left behind: Is Universal Credit really Universal’. This research looked at the impact Universal Credit on the rise of...
Thanks loads to Surrey Square primary school for having me and Sharon Hodgson, Chair of the Parliamentary Group on School Food, this morning at the breakfast club! Open to all children and family members, every day. Got through around 150 bagels this morning (I only had one!)
Thanks loads to Surrey Square primary school for having me and Sharon Hodgson, Chair of the Parliamentary Group on School Food, this morning at the breakfast club! Open to all children...
Government's abysmal DWP programme now means: 220,000 disabled people need new PIP assessments; 83,000 disabled people have had inaccurate mandatory reconsiderations; and a further 70,000 disabled people have lost at least £2,500 under ESA mistakes. Epic failure from a shambolic, uncaring regime.
You can watch my interview on this here: https://www.facebook.com/NeilCoyleMP/
Government's abysmal DWP programme now means: 220,000 disabled people need new PIP assessments; 83,000 disabled people have had inaccurate mandatory reconsiderations; and a further 70,000 disabled people have lost at...
9 months on from the horror and tragedy of the Grenfell fire, and the Government have still not given Southwark Council a penny to fit sprinklers in tower blocks - of which Southwark has 170.
Watch my question here: https://www.facebook.com/NeilCoyleMP/videos/1887526651257640/
9 months on from the horror and tragedy of the Grenfell fire, and the Government have still not given Southwark Council a penny to fit sprinklers in tower blocks -...
My constituent Malorie was 8 months pregnant when brutally attacked by her ex partner and an accomplice. They deliberately targeted the unborn child, which she lost as a result.
Malorie is campaigning to ensure men who commit violence that cause the loss of children are adequately prosecuted and get lengthier sentences. Please watch my question here: https://www.facebook.com/NeilCoyleMP/videos/1887314197945552/ and sign her petition below:
My constituent Malorie was 8 months pregnant when brutally attacked by her ex partner and an accomplice. They deliberately targeted the unborn child, which she lost as a result. Malorie...
Foodbanks and Universal Credit
I recently set up the new All Party Parliamentary Group on Foodbanks. Today’s meeting was on Universal Credit and its impact on foodbanks. It made for very tough listening.
We heard from a welfare rights advisor from CPAG who told us that foodbanks in ‘full service areas’ for Universal Credit (UC) have seen a 30% jump in demand already. Southwark Foodbank spoke of the dramatic rise in children needing their help after UC was extended to parents. We heard that UC is expected to leave a million children in poverty.
We also heard from some people directly affected. One man was absent and a safeguarding alert is out as he missed a very important meeting yesterday about whether he is being evicted or not. He has mental health issues and we are all very concerned for his welfare.
Another man told us of the difficulties he has faced since being diagnosed with a terminal illness. He should not have faced the delays and barriers to accessing the right help. He is technically still in work, but past the point of being eligible for sickness payments but receives sporadic holiday pay he has accrued.
Those payments have contributed to the insensitive UC administration system failing to understand his circumstances. He spoke movingly about considering suicide due to the terrible situation UC put him in. He has worked all his life and told us that he had to ‘swallow his pride’ to accept foodbank help.
He and another speaker spoke openly of their ‘demoralising’ and ‘degrading’ feelings about going to a foodbank. Southwark foodbank’s manager told us of the stress and anxiety UC has piled onto people seeking their help.
UC was supposed to simplify benefits; it is failing as jobcentres are unable to explain how to enter and use online journals properly or account for childcare costs or fluctuating incomes for example.
UC was supposed to better support people in work but is failing the self-employed and anyone on a zero-hour contract. The Government also axed work allowances, undermining any claims from Ministers that UC helps people into employment.
UC was also supposed to save money. It directly axes things like Severe Disability Premium and other help, hitting over 430,000 disabled people. But UC may not be helping the Treasury at all given that it is heaping new costs on the NHS, councils and courts which the Government is currently choosing to ignore. Sadly, the terrible toll it is taking on individuals was also all too apparent today.
Foodbanks and Universal Credit I recently set up the new All Party Parliamentary Group on Foodbanks. Today’s meeting was on Universal Credit and its impact on foodbanks. It made for...
Today’s Budget was a chance to answer some of the biggest challenges facing our country today, and as a result of Brexit. It should have been time to:
- invest in the largest housing-building programme the UK has ever seen to end the current crisis, in partnership with councils being able to build to meet needs;
- provide the policing and security our communities need; and
- ensure our children and all young people are equipped for a future with a weaker economy outside the EU and with the education funding required.
Instead the Government is frozen in the face of Brexit.
We will see continued pressure on police, with London officers unable to meet existing crime levels or address knife and moped-related crime with a further £400 million cut from the Met by the Home Office.
We will not get the genuinely affordable homes required, and may see councils weakened in relationship to developers with other announcements from the Chancellor. The Coalition and current Government axed over 80% of the Homes and Community Agency resources to build affordable homes and have contributed to the slump in home ownership, doubling of homelessness, rise in rents and crash in house building. The commitments made today tinker round the edges – and come on top of at least seven broken promises on tackling the housing crisis which you can see here.
I am concerned that the Government also suggested after Grenfell that ‘money was not an issue’ in ensuring the safety of tenants in other tower blocks. Southwark Council has seen over £200 million taken from it by central Government since 2010 but has 174 tall buildings. The council – and all Southwark MPs – have asked the Government to help retro-fit sprinklers. Not a penny was announced for fire safety to help our council.
After the London Bridge and Borough Market and other recent terror attacks, the Government also announced that ‘the terrorists will never win’ but are yet to provide a penny of support for the people and businesses who lost out in our area in June. For almost three years, the Treasury has known that Terror Insurance still needs updating to reflect vehicle/knife attacks and their impact but failed to tackle the issue in the Budget.
The Government told us just a few weeks ago that there was no need to pause and fix the failing Universal Credit. Today, the Chancellor says he will try to do that: in 2018. No extra help has been pledged for the people already affected or facing new claims today who won’t see any income till after Christmas. The Government's plans will not solve the main problems either – leaving many people facing continued long waits for help, inaccurate payments and still indebted to landlords.
The biggest revelation in the Budget was the ever-growing cost of Brexit. With jobs going, investment and production falling, research funding rescinding and opportunities falling, the Chancellor admitted to already having set £3 billion aside to deal with Brexit preparations. Now that wasn’t on the side of any bus.
Today’s Budget was a chance to answer some of the biggest challenges facing our country today, and as a result of Brexit. It should have been time to: invest in...
This weekend saw a large number of Remembrance services across our community and country. I was proud to participate in services at City Hall, on West Lane and Old Jamaica Road, on Borough High Street and at the Imperial war Museum.
It was good to see such significant crowds attending each event. It is important we acknowledge the impact of war and the toll wars have taken on our area and beyond, for service personnel and civilians alike and in historic and current conflicts. Southwark has strong ties to our armed forces and I was proud to represent my own family as well as our whole local community in laying wreaths.
Remembrance This weekend saw a large number of Remembrance services across our community and country. I was proud to participate in services at City Hall, on West Lane and Old...
I am delighted to have recently become the first ever patron of the North Southwark Environment Trust (NSET).
NSET is a local charity that derives its funding from a co-operative model of housing and commercial rents and re-invests in Southwark projects improving the environment and involving local people. The charity works across north Southwark in partnership with a wide range of local organisations, from tenants' groups and community festivals, from Pasley Park to Bede House.
I was very pleased to be asked to become the first ever patron after years of working with the charity as a councillor and as MP since 2015. I am proud of its history contribution to improving the public realm and supporting many successful local events, including the Rotherhithe Festival, and community spaces, like outside the Brunel Museum.
NSET plays an important role in promoting community inclusion and is always looking for new and innovative community projects to sponsor. Please see the application form online here: http://www.nset.org.uk/applications.php is you'd like NSET to support your local project!
I am delighted to have recently become the first ever patron of the North Southwark Environment Trust (NSET). NSET is a local charity that derives its funding from a co-operative model of...