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Bishop's Stortford Food Bank asks MP Julie Marson to convey Universal Credit concerns to Chancellor Rishi Sunak



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Bishop's Stortford Food Bank's concerns about cuts to Universal Credit have reportedly been relayed to the Chancellor of the Exchequer by the town's MP.

Charity chairman Bill Macdonald said that he had written to Julie Marson, the Conservative member for Hertford and Stortford, asking for her "support and influence" in persuading Rishi Sunak to reconsider the level of benefit payments over the summer.

He said: "Julie agreed to contact the Chancellor on our behalf and in fact forwarded my email to him, which was very helpful."

MP Julie Marson, second left, on a visit to Bishop's Stortford Food Bank – from left, chair of trustees Bill Macdonald, trustee Jim Tatchell, food bank co-ordinator Hana Hainsby, Rev Gill Hulme and Cllr Norma Symonds. Picture: Vikki Lince (56758103)
MP Julie Marson, second left, on a visit to Bishop's Stortford Food Bank – from left, chair of trustees Bill Macdonald, trustee Jim Tatchell, food bank co-ordinator Hana Hainsby, Rev Gill Hulme and Cllr Norma Symonds. Picture: Vikki Lince (56758103)

Last October, a £20 weekly uplift to the benefit, introduced during the Covid-19 pandemic, was cut.

Universal Credit is designed to replace a range of benefits for unemployed and low-paid people as 40% of claimants have a job.

In May, the Government is pressing ahead with plans to move around 2.6 million more people onto Universal Credit as part of a strategy to ensure all claimants receive the same benefit by 2024.

MP Julie Marson in the House of Commons
MP Julie Marson in the House of Commons

Government figures indicate almost half of those 2.6m currently claim sickness benefits, with one million receiving tax credits.

The Department of Work and Pensions estimates 1.4m will be better off by £220 a month, 300,000 will receive the same amount but 900,000 will be worse off.

The food bank's letter to Mrs Marson, asking her to intervene with the Treasury, followed the charity giving its backing to a plea to both Mr Sunak and Prime Minister Boris Johnson to tackle "rapidly rising levels of poverty, destitution and hunger".

In April the charity, based at the Methodist Church in South Street, signed the letter as a member of the Independent Food Aid Network (IFAN). It speaks for aid providers operating across the UK, including over 550 independent food banks.

Julie Marson campaigning with Boris Johnson in Dagenham for the 2017 General Election (56758114)
Julie Marson campaigning with Boris Johnson in Dagenham for the 2017 General Election (56758114)

Mr Macdonald said that while community support meant the operation in Bishop's Stortford was "in good health" and currently coping well with increased demand, colleagues elsewhere in the country were less fortunate.

IFAN has called for an 8% increase in benefits and warned: "It is the Government's responsibility to ensure that everybody in our society can afford food and other essentials. It is not for volunteers to plug the gaps left by a broken social security system and poorly-paid jobs.

"Over the past 12 years, our members have worked tirelessly in often extremely challenging circumstances to support hundreds of thousands of people in communities across the UK. However, there is a limit to food banks' capacity to support the numbers of people seeking their help.

"Food bank teams are often overstretched and exhausted and could well be unable to continue to pick up the pieces. Volunteers cannot be expected to cope both physically and mentally with such relentless demand. What's more, people who used to donate to food banks are now needing to access help themselves.

"Our members are struggling to find the resources to provide adequate food parcels as the scale of demand and food and energy price increases impact on the services they run.

"Charitable food aid has been an inadequate and unsustainable stop-gap measure to growing poverty in the UK for 12 years. We urge you to immediately address the root causes of the poverty driving the need for our services. Food banks are reaching breaking point."

The Indie asked Mrs Marson for an update on the progress of her correspondence with Mr Sunak but she did not respond.



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