Gazette column - 29/3/18

Here on South Tyneside the Children’s Society warns the Tories are taking food out of the mouths of 1,700 school pupils from low income families.

I’ll repeat that again because the act is so shocking the full horror of what they’re doing might take a moment to sink in.

Here on South Tyneside the respected Children’s Society warns the Tories are taking food out of the mouths of 1,700 school pupils from low income families.

Across the North East the respected charity estimates the number of kids the Conservatives will condemn to hunger is 40,000.

This unforgivable act of human vandalism is dressed up as a change to Universal Credit, the amalgamation of six benefits for people in and out of work.

Qualification for free school meals will be rolled back so as kids grow up they won’t receive the lunch which every teacher will tell you is necessary if they’re to be alert and learn.

Hungry pupils can’t concentrate so fall behind, potential unfilled and opportunities cruelly missed.

Labour argued strongly for social justice in Parliament but the cloth-eared, hard-hearted Conservatives refused to listen. Or care.

Universal Credit was sold as a simplification but its purpose is to cut, cut then cut again to slash £5 billion from a welfare bill which should be renamed social inclusion spending.

The victims include many people in work relying on top-ups to minimum wage pay packets.

It is shocking lone parents will on average be £1,300 a year worse off. Where is the justice in that? There isn’t any.

Currently a child with a parent receiving Universal Credit receives free school meals but this Tory Government wants to enforce means testing.

The testing is mean when children of anybody earning over £7,400 - upwards of roughly £142 a week - on top of Universal Credit will lose free food and be forced to find the money from their meagre income to buy lunch.

I believe a child’s right to a good meal and the best start in life shouldn’t be at the mercy of an assessor with a calculator.

It is a disgrace in one of the world’s largest economies in 2018 to hear about teachers taking food into schools to feed pupils who otherwise would be too hungry to concentrate on their studies.

I’m full of admiration for charity workers running Foodbanks and the people here on South Tyneside who drop off tins, drinks and other items to rescue the desperate abandoned by a benefits system straight out of Oliver Twist.

Demand up 300% since the Tories trampled back into power, first with the Liberal Democrats and then alone before teaming up with Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionists, is an indictment of awful inequality.

Kids should never be sacrificed on the altar of Tory austerity, victims of a failed political ideology emptying family budges and ruining public services - including the National Health Service.

I’m with the Children’s Society. Every child matters. Limiting free school meals is unforgivable. Tory MPs don’t go hungry so they shouldn’t vote to grab the food from the mouths of those who will.

Meet your MP

 Stephen-Hepburn-MP

Stephen Hepburn has served the Jarrow Constituency as MP since 1997.

He was last elected to serve in June 2017 and won the seat with a conclusive 17,263 majority.

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