It was great to virtually visit Carlisle Community Help this week in my role as Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions. I was inspired to hear they have delivered 7,500 meals to people in need throughout the Covid crisis. My thanks go to their volunteers, and volunteers in similar community groups across the country. However, I want to build a country where food poverty is a thing of the past and families do not need the kindness of local charities just to get by. Cancelling the £20 a week cut to Universal Credit – planned for April – should be the first step.

Speaking of which, it was very worrying to learn this week that 41% of people claiming Universal Credit – equivalent to more than 2.4 million people – feared they would be “very likely” to cut back on food for themselves if the planned cut goes ahead, while 13% – equivalent to 224,000 families – warned they would be very likely to cut back on food for their children. To me it is completely wrong that parents are worrying if they can make ends meet and have enough to feed their kids because the Government plan to cut their income by £1,000 a year. Britain is facing the worst recession of any major economy because of this Government’s incompetence and indecision – yet they want struggling families to pay the price. The Chancellor must offer certainty to families and secure our economy by cancelling this cut now and stopping families from having to live in fear of even harder times. Read more on these new figures from the Trussell Trust here.

Even the Secretary of State, Therese Coffey, knows it is irresponsible for the Chancellor to be winding down support by cutting Universal Credit, leaving unemployment support at a 30-year low, as we learnt at the Work and Pensions Select Committee this week. I asked her exactly what her position was in parliament. Watch here.

Meanwhile, the government’s Kickstart scheme, to tackle youth unemployment came under fire. Billions of pounds of public money is being poured into Kickstart and we must ensure it is being spent well to create meaningful job opportunities for young people. Young people and businesses can’t afford any more incompetence from this government.

My Shadow Minster for Disability, Vicky Foxcroft, also launched a regional roadshow of virtual meetings for Labour to listen to the views and needs of disabled people, relevant charities and community groups and disability carers. You can find out more here or register for the North West event on 5th March here.

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