There is some merit in the argument presented by the Archbishop of Westminster that cuts, and indeed caps, to welfare are removing a safety net for those worst off in society.
We see in the Independent that one in six GPs have been asked to refer people to food banks, and while unemployment may be dropping, people are still struggling with stagnant wages and rising costs.
I’ve long argued against the benefits cap, stating that the cost of living varies so broadly across the country that such a cap can only lead to people in so-called affluent areas being disadvantaged. And we now see the use of foodbanks in these so-called affluent areas, Guildford, my constituency, being one, on the increase.
To me, there is a grave injustice in living in a town where some have mansions and Ferraris, and others are forced to collect supermarket-own soup from the food bank to make sure their kids have enough to eat.
Now, that’s not to say I’m against welfare reform. Since Beveridge’s conception, successive Labour and Conservative Governments have twisted and tweaked until it had become so complex only trained advisors could determine what any one person could receive in times of hardship.
And there is a debate to be had about whether in-work benefits are actually allowing businesses to get away with not paying decent wages, while escalating a culture of entitlement that breeds contempt for the role that welfare plays in society in maintaining a basic level of living.
The Liberal Democrats uphold principles of liberty, equality and community. But all three become irrelevant if you are forced to live hand-to-mouth. A person without basic needs met; food, shelter and company, is a person stripped of all dignity, and something we should not condone.
And that is why I am pleased to join Ros Kayes in summating a motion on Food Poverty at Spring Conference. We are calling on our Parliamentarians to push the Government to provide more support for those in crisis, those stripped of dignity, through grants and funding for food banks, through protection and ring-fencing of emergency grants and through transparent and visible action to target poverty.
As Charles Darwin said:
If the misery of the poor be caused not by the laws of nature, but by our institutions, great is our sin.
I hope you’ll join us on Saturday 8th March at York and support the motion to reduce these sins. And if you’d like to help us campaign, please get in touch.
* Kelly-Marie Blundell is a member of Federal Policy Committee, Vice Chair of the Social Security Working Group and previous parliamentary candidate