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Dear Theresa May: if 6/10 families in poverty are working, how is ‘work the best route out of poverty’?

Yesterday, at Prime Minister’s Questions, new Liverpool Labour MP Daniel Carden asked Theresa May how she would be stopping children from going hungry this summer. Her response, as always, lacked sentiment and the understanding of what the many families living in poverty are going through.

Repeating yet another one of her monotonous sound-bites, she stated that the “best route out of poverty is work”. So, Prime Minister, if that is true then why are 60% of people living in poverty from a household where someone is in work?

Added financial pressure

Carden asked:

“The Prime Minister’s mission, as she says it, is to make Britain a country that works for everyone. What is she doing now to stop kids going hungry this summer in Liverpool?”

This is a powerful question that demands a knowledgeable, empathic, response. These children are facing a potentially distressing summer break, where their families are put under huge financial pressure to provide meals that their children are entitled to for free at school in term-time. The effects of this can be devastating for the entire family.

Food banks predict that many more families will have to rely on their donations during the school holidays, which see children lose access to free school meals for around 170 days a year.

Magical fix

Yet, according to Theresa May there is a magical fix for this misery. The parents simply have to find work before the summer holidays begin, and then their children won’t have to go hungry. After all, as May keeps bragging, employment is at a record high. However, it is quite clear that it is not that simple.

Low pay is the main cause of in-work poverty, and low income is the leading cause of people needing to use food banks. Employment may be on the rise but wages certainly are not. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation found that since the economic recovery began, in-work poverty has increased by 1.1 million people.

The prime minster suggesting that simply finding work will solve these problems is peddling a falsehood to those without work, and further insulting those who are in poverty despite being employed.

Zero hour contracts

The type of employment that people find can also be hugely important, with zero-hero contracts being particularly troublesome for barely managing families.

In 2016 The Office for National Statistics showed that 905,000 people are employed under zero hour contracts – meaning they are aware that they may not get any hours work in a week. The Guardian reported that TUC analysis shows that average workers earn 50% more than those on zero hour contracts; for workers on zero hour contracts, the median hourly rate is only £7.25 per hour.

Parents terrified of their children going hungry this summer might be able to find a zero hour contract on such short notice. However, this would probably leave them worse off; with zero hour employment comes a set of extremely complicated circumstances regarding benefits.

With the damaging effects zero hour contracts can have, it is no surprise that many are calling for the controversial contracts to be banned (including Labour this year in their manifesto).

What about childcare?

With childcare fee’s constantly rising, despite the fact that wages are not, it can be extortionate for families to find a suitable childcare place for their children. Some may be entitled to financial help with this, but to apply for it they must already have a nursery place secured. To have that place secured, they often need to front hundreds of pounds. How is a family already unable to feed their children supposed to afford this?

Without being able to find childcare, finding work is impossible for many parents; Labour want to rectify this and made a key pledge in their election manifesto to improve childcare.

The problem is the government

As Theresa May begins her summer break, one must wonder if she puts even a second thought in for the thousands of families living so miserably.

However hard the Prime Minister attempts to disguise her negligence, thousands will go hungry this summer, while she dines in luxury.

It does not seem to matter how many times the Prime Minister is asked about vital issues affecting the survival of many families, we still receive the same rehearsed, dispassionate responses.

May continues to misleadingly suggest the government is helping desperate people to improve their lives, all to disguise the sad truth that it is in fact her government that is destroying them.

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