Editor’s blog: 20 million meals needs a 20:20 vision to end child poverty

Xn is impartial. We won’t ever tell you how to vote, what to think or what to do, unless it’s who to vote for in Britain’s Got Talent (well done Jon, see you at Christmas). But 20 million meals given out in just 12 months? A staggering one in six children living in poverty? There are no (printable) words to describe how cross that makes me.

In 1999, the then Labour Government made a commitment to eradicated child poverty in the UK by 2020. It became law in 2010. The Coalition Government agreed to it when they came to power later that same year.

Data released last year by the Department of Work and Pensions revealed that 17% (2.3 million) of UK children lived in homes with substantially lower than average income – a figure that rises to 27% (3.5 million) after housing costs are paid.

Why is this?

The damning report issued by The Trussell Trust, Oxfam and Church Action on Poverty is very clear: the Coalition’s changes to the welfare system coupled with food price increases and rises in housing costs have pushed more and more families below the breadline.

Over the past few months they have collected reams and reams of evidence that shows how initiatives such as the bedroom tax, the universal credit system and sanctions (stopping benefit for failing to meet an appointment) are forcing people to make a stark choice between eating or paying the bills.

The bedroom tax is a particular bug bear of mine. It sees so fair on paper: people who live in homes that are under occupied should move into smaller properties. But if you’ve ever seen Channel 4’s How To Get A Council House you’ll quickly discover what many who are now paying the hated tax know: there is a chronic shortage of suitable properties. So they are stuck in a rut that is pushing them deeper and deeper into poverty.

Before you think that it’s just these three charities that are pushing the poverty line, Barnado’s and The Children’s Society are on the case too.

Barnado’s released some research last year that includes this damning verdict: “The Government has a statutory requirement, enshrined in the Child Poverty Act 2010 , to end child poverty by 2020. However, it is predicated that by 2020/21 another 1 million children will be pushed into poverty as a result of the Coalition Government’s policies.”

The Children’s Society, likewise warn that the UK’s child poverty levels are among the worst in the industrialised world.

“The UK has a higher proportion of children living in workless households than any other European Union country,” it adds.

In my view, the current poverty crisis is entirely down to the Coalition’s mishandled attempt to overhaul the benefits system. The Bedroom Tax should be setting off enough alarm bells at Conservative HQ, but somehow they seem determined to press on with the reforms even though they are not working. There are endless reports in the press of people who have died as a direct result of anxiety caused by changes to the system (just search for ‘died bedroom tax’ if you don’t believe me). 

This is clearly not good enough and no good Government should be allowing this to happen. 

So where do we go from here?

You can start by pencilling in volunteering for the food bank collections at Tesco over the weekend of July 3-5. You can get stuck in by volunteering for some of the many charities that help locally – Frontline debt advice, CCA, CAP Money Courses and CIRDIC will all welcome your support.

Look at Xn’s foodbank shopping lists and tailor your shopping to suit their needs.

But it shouldn’t come down to supermarket collections. It is a national disgrace – an utter scandal – that 20 million meals were handed out last year. It’s worth letting your MP know what you think about the issue and start making a reality of that 2020 promise to eradicate child poverty.