I recently spoke in a debate on the report from the children's future food inquiry. The fact that I took part in a debate on children going hungry in one of the world’s richest countries is a cause for shame. In my local authority area of North Ayrshire and Arran, the child poverty levels average at about 30% across each of the towns, and we know the figures are set to rise due to the Tory Government’s cruel benefit policies that are deliberately and knowingly taking food off the tables of hungry children.
The Universal Credit rollout, with its five week wait for payments to begin, is increasing the need for foodbanks, with Largs foodbank reporting a surge of over 200% in the demand for emergency food parcels, and the continued rollout will see this trend continuing.
In Scotland we are trying to do things differently, even though the benefits system is still reserved to the UK Government. The Scottish Government is expanding the provision of free school meals, already available to all local authority schooled children in primaries 1, 2 and 3 and after primary 3 for those whose parents receive benefits. It has also announced additional funding to tackle food insecurity outside of term time, so that children are not going hungry during the holidays. The SNP Scottish Government has also recently announced a £10 per week payment for all eligible children, which when fully delivered will support 410,000 children in Scotland. This has been described by children’s poverty charities as a “game changer” in the fight against child poverty.
Unfortunately, the Scottish Government currently can only mitigate the negative effects of the UK Government policies but I urged the minister to truly reflect on the legacy of his Government on child poverty and to abandon the cruel policies that have caused this situation
Click below to watch my contribution.