Hain Demands Action to Save Neath Children From Poverty

Peter Hain has condemned ‘failing’ Coalition policies in reaction to the news that one million children in the UK will be living in poverty by 2020, with thousands of Neath children likely to be affected.

It is news that has confirmed the worst fears of child poverty campaigners, with 200,000 children in Wales already living in poverty. The MP for Neath has repeatedly voiced his concerns regarding child poverty over the past few months, growing increasingly concerned about the effects that the Government attacks on Welfare Benefits are having on the most vulnerable in our communities.

Commenting Mr Hain said, “In Neath Port Talbot, more than 20,000 children are living in homes where weekly earnings total less than 60% of the average household and the number of children living in poverty is going up because the government isn’t creating jobs and is systematically removing the safeguards Labour put in like childcare solutions and tax credits”.

Mr Hain strongly criticised the Government’s “refusal to believe in relative poverty with an inability to promote policies that might help people out of absolute poverty” and is particularly angry about the undoing of all the progress made under Labour.

He warns, “what the IFS is talking about is so massive an increase in child poverty that it will effectively reverse all the work Labour did between 1997 and 2010 getting one million children out of poverty.”

Mr Hain was further worried, he said, about the burden on local services that increased child poverty would bring, pointing out that at the Neath foodbank alone, organisers are ‘already struggling’ to deal with the demand and desperation of local people.

Hain warns of a growing local food crisis

Peter Hain has denounced Government welfare cuts in the wake of a new independent report that claims nearly five million people in Britain are now living in food poverty.

The MP for Neath commented, “it is a worrying statistic that highlights the increasing social divide in Britain, when the poorest households in Britain were found to spend almost a quarter of their annual income on food, whereas the richest only spend four per cent.”

“More and more local families are facing the crunch.  Significant numbers in low income jobs are struggling to put food on the table or pay astronomic fuel or petrol bills.  So are people losing their jobs and thousands – in or out of work – suffering from punitive benefit cuts,” he said.

“Rising food prices are making matters even worse. People are now increasingly being forced to rely on emergency hand-outs and are making cheap nutritional choices in order to eat,” says Mr. Hain.

“Whilst the Prime Minister claims that food banks are useful to ‘people who feel they need a little extra food,’ many people in my constituency are relying on their local food bank simply to avoid sending their children to bed hungry.”

Neath Food bank has been seeing over 1600 local families in a desperate situation – the equivalent to some nearly 5000 people, a figure that Mr Hain says is set to rise. “The food poverty crisis is now on our doorstep and in our homes. Furthermore, with the Government’s punitive bedroom tax due to come into effect next month, coupled with cuts in council tax benefits, there is no end in sight to the misery being endured by our most vulnerable families.”

The Report, issued by the multi-national Kelloggs cereal company, found that whilst families now spend 20 per cent more on food than they did five years ago, they are actually eating seven per cent less. The poorest are spending 23.8 per cent of their annual income on food and 4.7 million people in the UK were found to be in this situation.

The Trussell Trust, which works with churches and communities to run food banks both locally and nationwide and worked with Kelloggs on the study, anticipates that the number of people who resort to food banks will rise to 280,000 in the year 2012/13.

Trussell Trust food banks provide a minimum of three days emergency food and support to people experiencing crisis in the UK. Neath food bank operates at the Orchard Place Baptist Church (opposite the bus station) and is open Tuesdays and Fridays 2pm-4pm. Further information can be found on the Trussell Trust website, http://neath.foodbank.org.uk/.

Foodbanks Wales

Mr Peter Hain (Neath) (Lab): Will my hon. Friend comment on a particular feature of the Neath food bank? Some 1,400 people in the Neath area are dependent on the food bank. Around half of those are in work. It is not solely people on benefits who are dependent on  food banks; people in work are, too. The Wales Office website has still not taken down the Secretary of State’s commitment that people in work will always be better off than they would be on benefits. Those people are dependent on food banks in my constituency.

Kevin Brennan: Indeed. In a recent debate led by my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Wavertree (Luciana Berger), my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff South and Penarth (Stephen Doughty) mentioned that he had collected food for FareShare in Penarth. Many of the people being helped by the food bank were not the people one might expect, but people in work who were struggling to get by. The hon. Member for Monmouth (David T. C. Davies) has been keen to intervene; I note that a new food bank has opened up in Chepstow. I am sure that he will pay it a visit shortly, if he has not already done so.

In Wales, the rapid expansion of food banks is a subject that resonates and rankles. It is symptomatic of an approach by the Government that represents a shift away from the British belief in the importance of social security, founded by the three great Welsh pioneers and symbolised by the old-age pension, national insurance and the national health service, and its replacement with the alien American concept of welfare stigmatism—the demonisation of the poor and the replacement of the state’s responsibility with the vagaries of the charitable handout. The good society has been gazumped by the ill-named “big society”, in which well-meaning individuals try to patch the gaping holes created by austerity economics.

Make Christmas Food Donations Urges MP

Families and individuals could be without any food unless the Neath Food Bank continues to get plenty of food donations over the Christmas and New Year period, says Neath MP Peter Hain.

Mr Hain dropped in with his own donation at his local Food Bank at Orchard Place Baptist Church in Neath Town Centre, and praised volunteers led by Yvonne Davies and overseen by the Rector of Neath Canon Stephen Ryan. Mr Hain was told over 1600 different local people have been given food over the past year.

“The volunteers are doing a fantastic job and I was very impressed with their diligence and organisation: the true spirit of Neath’s caring communities at work,” said Mr Hain.

Volunteers for the Centre initially came from local churches working together but has grown to include other organisations and the wider community. Nineteen local schools have also participated. Four tonnes of food were donated in October alone and the Baptist Church is currently packed with food neatly weighed, sorted and packaged. Each family or individual is assessed for need and food allocated for three days of a nutritionally balanced diet, typically including tins of tomatoes, vegetables, soup, meet, fish, together with packets of cereal, rice, potato or pasta.

Last week 93 local families were fed through sessions on a Tuesday and Friday between hours 2pm – 4pm.

The Centre is run under regulations established by the charity, the Trussell Trust and families or individuals in need are referred by local agencies such as the Citizens Advice Bureau.

‘Although it speaks volumes for the sorry state of Britain in 2012 that too many people cannot feed themselves, the caring spirit in the Neath food Bank is movingly impressive,’ said Mr Hain.