Tulip Siddiq: Worsening food poverty is 'a shameful moment for our country'
- Credit: Nigel Sutton
Tulip Siddiq has told this newspaper how fear of losing £20 from universal credit is occupying her constituents - and slammed the government's attitude to food poverty during the pandemic.
The Hampstead and Kilburn MP, who is also a shadow cabinet member with responsibility for early years provision, said that though food poverty is an issue that predates the pandemic, it has been exacerbated over the past year.
"I think it's very sad that the impact of this has pushed more people into needing to use food banks," Tulip said.
Citing projects like the food bank at the JW3 community centre in Finchley Road, she added: "There is an amazing community in Hampstead and Kilburn and it's really come together. I'm really proud of them and the work they are doing.
"We shouldn't be in need of food banks like this though. I think it's a really shameful moment for our country."
The MP also criticised the "shocking" food parcels given to some children, and said: "Parents should be given £15 a week in support. We should trust parents and give them the money. It's insulting to say they'd spend it on booze or similar.
"So much of the casework I get at the moment is people struggling to make ends meet."
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She said as such, the loss of £20 in Universal Credit is a worry.
"I don't understand people saying it's just £20," she said. "That's a real difference to many people."
The MP said she is concerned that specific support is not set to be in place over half term.
"I find it hard to believe they've said there'll not be support for free school meals over half term," she said. "Surely the PM doesn't need Marcus Rashford to point this out again."
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said: "There should be no doubt in this government’s commitment to free school meals support for children who need the most help.
"The centrally-funded national voucher scheme gives schools another option in providing that support – but they can of course continue providing locally-arranged solutions or high-quality lunch parcels where this is most convenient for their families."
He said that over February half term, councils would be able to use funding from the £170m Covid Winter Grant Scheme to finance food provision. Tulip said she was worried this could create a "postcode lottery" for food vouchers, with councils forced to juggle competing priorities.