The footballer Marcus Rashford has urged the government to end threats to social security payments and focus instead on practical measures to address what he called the pandemic of child hunger affecting the UK.
Rashford’s call accompanied new figures which estimate that nearly one in six families with children experienced food insecurity during the past six months, meaning they skipped meals or struggled to afford to eat healthy food regularly.
“What is it going to take for these children to be prioritised? Instead of removing support through social security, we should be focusing efforts on developing a sustainable long-term roadmap out of this child hunger pandemic," él dijo.
The Manchester United and England striker has rebooted his popular campaign to persuade ministers to expand eligibility for free school meals to include more struggling families, provide long-term funding for the holiday activity and food programme, and expand the Healthy Start fruit and vegetables voucher scheme.
Él dijo: “Whilst we’ve come a long way in the last 20 meses, placing the issue of child food poverty at the forefront, devastatingly, the issue is getting worse not better.”
It is understood Rashford is opposed to any social security cuts at this stage. He believes that despite the easing of Covid restrictions this has not stabilised the finances of the most vulnerable households, many of whom continue to experience hunger and food insecurity.
The Food Foundation thinktank, which works alongside Rashford on his End Child Food Poverty Campaña, said levels of UK food insecurity were 27% higher than they were pre-pandemic, and more families were food insecure compared with the first lockdown. It said the £20 universal credit cut, together with rising food prices, will make the problem more acute.
Anna Taylor, executive director of the Food Foundation, dicho: “It’s extremely distressing that, despite Marcus’s best efforts last autumn, even more children lack a secure, nutritious diet compared with last year.”
Rashford’s intervention comes as Labour seeks to put Conservative MPs on the spot by forcing a House of Commons vote on the withdrawal of the £20 uplift on Wednesday this week. The removal of the uplift is just weeks away in early October, during the Tory party conference.
Labour estimates the cut will remove over £2.5bn from local economies in the north of England and the Midlands, including well over £1bn in “red wall” seats that have traditionally voted Labour but were recently won by the Conservatives.
Affected areas highlighted by Labour include Stoke-on-Trent, where more than 30,000 families in three parliamentary constituencies will lose the equivalent of £1,050 a year from October, and Blackpool, dónde 22,600 families in two constituencies face the cut.
Jonathan Reynolds, the shadow work and pensions secretary, dicho: “Labour is giving Conservative MPs the chance to do the right thing, stand up to the prime minister and defend their constituents from this devastating cut. Once again, this government’s rhetoric doesn’t stand up to reality. They promised investment in the north and Midlands but are instead pulling billions out of local economies.”
The government has insisted there is no longer any need to maintain the uplift as the economy opens up, and the government’s focus should be on getting people into work. sin embargo, many of those facing the cut are already in work, and there is increasing nervousness among Tory MPs at the impact on struggling families.
A hundred organisations, including charities, profesores, doctors and a Conservative thinktank last week wrote to the government urging it to maintain the £20 uplift, which costs up to £6bn a year. The letter said this would be the biggest cut to the basic rate of social security since the second world war and pile financial pressure on to 5.5 million families.
Un portavoz del gobierno dijo: “As announced by the chancellor at the budget, the uplift to universal credit was always temporary. It was designed to help claimants through the economic shock and financial disruption of the toughest stages of the pandemic, and it has done so.
“Universal credit will continue to provide vital support for those both in and out of work and it’s right that the government should focus on our plan for jobs, supporting people back into work and supporting those already employed to progress and earn more.”