On 19th June 2019 Baroness Janke asked the Government “what steps they are taking to address the findings of the report of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, published on 22 May”. The Bishop of Leeds, Rt Revd Nick Baines, asked a follow-up question:
Bishop of Leeds: My Lords, if the success is so great, why are so many schools in my diocese having to feed children, and why does almost every parish contribute to food banks?
Baroness Buscombe: My Lords, we have done an enormous amount to tackle poverty since we came into government. We have invested huge sums of additional money into developing a welfare system that encourages people into work and supports them in work and with progression in their jobs, so that they can better provide, because we know that the best way to get out of poverty and save children from it is to work. As the IFS said today:
“Absolute poverty remains at its lowest ever level”.
Baroness Sherlock (Lab): My Lords, perhaps I may offer the Minister a quote about the report:
“we did a fact check of that report. He made a lot of good points. It was factually correct … in terms of the facts, of austerity, cuts to local government funding, of the reliance that we have on the labour market and the risk that we face if there was a recession, all of those things were really good points that we have taken on board”.
That is a quote from the policy director for children, families and disadvantage at the DWP, giving evidence to the Work and Pensions Select Committee last week.
Given that we have received not just this report but one after another showing that families on low incomes are really struggling, and given the crucial point made by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Leeds that families are turning up at food banks all over the country, working parents are going to food banks and schools are feeding hungry children, something is going wrong. Please will the Minister look again at this?
Baroness Boothroyd (CB): The right reverend Prelate asked a direct and interesting question. Will the Minister answer it?
Baroness Buscombe: I have answered it. We have listened; we have taken the questions and statements of the rapporteur very seriously. We do not accept, in the words of people at the United Nations last week, the political scaremongering, the hyperbole, the inflammatory and scaremongering approach to the whole subject. It is not helpful from someone who was not keen to engage with our officials.