This week appears to be rather quiet in terms of politics as several of the parties have carried out their annual conferences and the others seem not due to do so for several weeks. Yet the House of Commons is not due to reopen until next Monday. Despite this there have been several issues that have arisen here in Sussex and elsewhere involving politicians and other groups of people. These themes could potentially inspire some of our politicians to raise the subjects next week in Parliament. A week ago, a speech took place in Northern Ireland that is very relevant for the whole of the UK and should raise concerns by many politicians who understand the hard work by charities, faith groups and businesses. The statement was from Ciara Ferguson who is a Sinn Fein Member of the Legislative Assembly. Before she was elected as MLA she was a community development worker which explains the effectiveness of her statement. Although she was speaking about what is happening in Foyle, these words apply to the rest of the UK.
The additional £20 a week applied to universal credit and working tax credit as part of the response to the COVID crisis was required long before the pandemic began. Like community workers, social workers, welfare rights workers and teachers, I am fully aware that most people could never make their universal credit last, let alone without a further £80 a month. As in many other constituencies across the North, my constituency has seen the number of food banks rise for well over a decade. Since 2010, in the outer north area of the city, where I worked for 20 years, we have been working closely with the four Churches and the Churches Trust to provide food parcels to our most vulnerable. In the past five or six years, we have been inundated with support for our communities and our food banks from organisations such as FareShare, Barnardo’s and Children in Need and from local businesses. Moreover, every year for the past six or seven years, most of the communities in which I work in the North have seen the reality of holiday hunger. Poverty and child poverty rates, particularly in my Foyle constituency, where poverty levels are already among the highest in the North, have increased and will continue to increase.
It would be fantastic if our MPs could adopt these words in a weeks time so that our Parliament can reflect on what happened in the middle of last week when the £20 a week was removed by the Government from Universal Credit recipients. Perhaps that could be brought alongside the call by Peter Bottomley a few days ago for MPs to receive a rise of around 25% for their wages. This would involve a £12 Million increase to the MPs and presumably we will need to pay more than that because of the impact on tax from the Parliamentary employment system. Whilst that same fund would only benefit 12 thousand people who currently receive Universal Credit if it was used to reverse the £20 a week reduction it does seem reasonable for the two themes to be discussed by the same people. As it happens another theme that is being planned for next Monday by some of the local faith communities has relevance for Parliament.
The event that is planned for next Monday evening is being coordinated by the Church of England and Roman Catholic Church both of which that cover Sussex as a whole. The event is taking place in the evening at 6pm and it is entitled Modern Slavery Ambassadors Launch event that is taking place at a Catholic Church in Horsham. As they have stated in one of their documents
It is estimated that over 40 million men, women, and children are trapped in modern slavery today
and that they are working
to establish a network of Modern Slavery Ambassadors able to raise awareness of the practice of Modern Slavery to people and church congregations across East and West Sussex.
It would be fantastic if this approach which is recognised by other faith groups, charities and a wide range of businesses could be raised by our MPs. As it happens there is a page on the Government website that is entitled UK Parliament’s Modern Slavery Programme which states that The UK Parliament is committed to tackling modern slavery and human trafficking. However, they go on to explain about their steps that took place to prevent slavery and human trafficking between 1 April 2020 – 31 March 2021 and that
We’ve set ourselves goals at the end of the statement and we will update on progress in our next statement in 2022.
Let us hope that the Politicians can become a bit more dynamic than simply making statements occasionally.