Sharon Hodgson MP

Working hard for Washington and Sunderland West.

ECHO COLUMN: Conservative Government plunging our communities into a 'living nightmare'

Read Sharon's latest Sunderland Echo column below or by going to the Sunderland Echo.


Amidst the latest Brexit chaos were several resignations of senior cabinet ministers.

One particular resignation of interest was Esther McVey, who has overseen the botched roll-out of Universal Credit (UC) and has failed to acknowledge the criticisms and real-life experiences of families up and down the country who have struggled to make ends meet because of UC.

Following the conclusion of the UN’s Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights report in the UK, it was expected that McVey’s successor, Amber Rudd, would finally recognise the failures of UC and make urgent changes to the system.

Instead, she said that the report was “disappointing”, not because of the shocking evidence it unearthed of 21st century Britain, but because of “the extraordinary political nature of his language”.

The UN rapporteur, Philip Alston, said that “British compassion for those who are suffering has been replaced by a punitive, mean-spirited, and often callous approach.”

He called Universal Credit “Orwellian”, and was struck by the mobilisation of food banks saying that they “resembled the sort of activity you might expect for a natural disaster or health epidemic”.

The UK is not suffering from a natural disaster or a health epidemic.

It is suffering from a Conservative Government that is so wrapped up in its own internal battles and negotiating a bad Brexit deal, that it is forgetting the people at home.

Fourteen million people, a fifth of the population in the UK, now live in poverty.

The use of food banks increased by 13% when comparing figures from April to September 2017, to the same period this year.

In the 2017-18 financial year, more than 1.3 million three-day emergency food supplies were given to people in crisis by Trussell Trust food banks.

That is almost a million more packages given compared to in 2012-13, when 346,992 three-day emergency food supplies were provided.

The number of people sleeping rough in England has risen each year since 2010, with 4,751 people sleeping rough in 2017, and just last week it was reported that there are now 320,000 homeless people in Britain.

Life expectancy for both men and women has stagnated for the first time in over a century, and in some areas has even begun to decrease.

All of this would not be out of place in a Charles Dickens novel, but unfortunately it is the reality of 21st century Britain.

The UN rapporteur’s report should have been a wake-up call for the Government, but instead they are plunging our communities into a living nightmare.

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