I have enjoyed a longstanding relationship with our local Foodbanks. Members of my team work closely with the volunteers who do a great job offering more than food to the local people they help. My team work with the volunteers to tackle the underlying reasons why people need to go to our local Foodbanks and they try to help people individually with those problems. As a result of this work, together we have been able to help many people back onto their own feet. I have been able to take up systemic issues about some administrative problems with benefits and get improvements such as the early withdrawal of the last Labour government’s ATOS contract for work capability assessments.
I don’t want to see Foodbank use become an entrenched part of our welfare system. I am a member of the APPG, chaired by Bishop Tim Thornton of Truro and Frank Field MP that produced the Feeding Britain report that was published last week. It was well received, considered a thorough and thoughtful piece of work and welcomed by the Government who are carefully considering its recommendations.
Last week I also spent time highlighting the excellent work of Shelterbox and in particular their work in supporting the refugees from the conflict in Syria. Shelterbox have brave teams of aid workers in Syria now providing more than accommodation and including teaching material and medical support. I am looking forward to spending tomorrow afternoon visiting Shelterbox to personally thank the professionals and volunteers for their work which contributes to Britain leading the humanitarian support in this region, as it does in so many others parts of the world torn apart by man made or natural disasters.
Everyday of the year, including over this festive season, local people are serving their community and their fellow citizens both in our own country and around the world. Our society is made up of people from all walks of life, and from the public, private and voluntary sectors. It works best when we all work together.
One of the key recommendations of the Feeding Britain Inquiry was for those who can make make a difference in tackling poverty in our society to work more closely together in their communities. No two communities are the same and it is the people living in them who have the solutions. The causes of poverty are complex and require a range of solutions. This is a really important political issue that needs a political solution, there will be different ideas but that shouldn’t mean name calling and blame games.
Some politicians are trying to conjure up old 20th century politics based on failed ideology. The state versus the individual and the private sector. This is a false choice and nonsense. The Conservatives are committed to balancing the nation’s finances. When we have done this public expenditure will be broadly where it was in 2007. That is not a return to the 1930s! The real debate is how taxpayers money is spent to deliver a better future.