Cat Smith column: Tory austerity - and no-deal spending - means poverty is becoming the new normal for our children

Cat Smith MP raises concerns over young people living in poverty, or seeing food banks as their primary source of food
Cat Smith MP raises concerns over young people living in poverty, or seeing food banks as their primary source of food

This week, the Fleetwood MP looks at poverty, and claims the Conservative government's policies have worsened the situation

One of the most interesting things about being an MP is visiting schools and youth groups. Speaking to children and young people can give an insight into families’ lives that you don’t always hear from adults. But the honesty and straightforward answers you hear from children can also shock you.
Sitting with a young child drawing a picture of the countryside and asking “where does food come from?” should solicit the answer “farms”; it’s shocking when the real answer you hear is “food banks”.
There are now eight million working-age adults in poverty. Child poverty has risen to over four million and is expected to rise by a further million by 2022. Every week, thousands of families are relying on food banks. At the same time, the Conservatives will have handed out £110 billion in corporate tax giveaway breaks by the end of this Parliament.
Under the Conservatives, a crisis of low pay and rising prices means people are £800 a year worse off than they were 10 years ago. The so-called ‘National Living Wage’ is not a real Living Wage – and it won’t even hit £9 an hour by 2020, as the Conservatives promised.
Eight years of relentless Conservative government cuts have pushed our public services into crisis
Since 2010, the number of people every year waiting longer than four hours in A&E has soared by almost 2.5 million, while there are now more than four million people on the English waiting list. The Conservatives have cut 21,000 police officers, and crime is up – proving you can’t keep people safe on the cheap. While officer numbers are now at the lowest level in 30 years, we have seen the highest recorded crime rise in a decade.
Cuts to adult social care are expected to reach £7 billion by the end of the year, resulting in falling care quality and care packages being cut or rationed.
School budgets are seeing cuts for the first time in 20 years. More than 400,000 primary school children are in super-sized classes and there are more than 24,000 unqualified teachers working in state schools due to the recruitment and retention crisis.
Over the last two Budgets Philip Hammond has assigned £4.2 billion in the event that the country leaves the EU without a deal.
Currently £171,000 per hour is being spent on no-deal preparations. The Conservatives have so far wasted £1.9 billion of money on Brexit that could have been better spent helping our cash starved public services.
Since January 2019, under the Conservatives rail fares have risen by 36 per cent - two times faster than wage growth – leaving Brits paying some of the highest fares in Europe. The cost of some rail season tickets will have risen by over 50 per cent since 2010 – leaving some passengers paying thousands of pounds more each year.
The Conservatives have failed on the deficit – they promised to eradicate it by 2015, then 2016, then 2017 only to have missed all these targets.
Yet the damaging policy of austerity remains. The Conservatives have presided over almost eight years of failure on housing, from rising homelessness to falling home-ownership. They have no plan to fix the housing crisis.
The Conservatives are failing Britain, putting the economy at risk, leaving communities behind and pushing our public services into crisis.
It’s critical we get Brexit sorted, not least so we can once again focus on the millions left behind by this self-interested government.
And we need to make sure young children don’t see the kind of poverty they live in as normal.