Birkenhead MP Frank Field is calling for urgent Government action to tackle poverty and hunger after the collapse of the welfare safety net.

Mr Field has co-chaired an inquiry with fellow independent MP Heidi Allen to set out the beginnings of a reform programme "which will take an axe to the root causes of destitution in this country."

They say the failure of the welfare state has left families in our poorest neighbourhoods “blighted by the constant spectre of destitution” and reliant on charity handouts.

Their interim report calls for major reforms including scrapping the five-week wait for  universal credit payment and lifting a four-year freeze on the level of working-age benefits.

Their report "The Other Britain and the failure of the welfare state" follows a series of visits to food banks and community projects - including one in Chester where a support worker told them: “I don’t meet a single person now who isn’t cold and hungry.”


The document recommends:

Universal Credit payments should begin within a week of registering for the benefit. Greater flexibility is also required in the calculation and payment of UC to prevent working households’ budgets being thrown into chaos by substantial fluctuations in wages and benefits.

The freeze on family benefits and tax credits should end immediately and, in future, these benefits should be uprated at least in line with the cost of living

A National Fuel Fund should be established to support households who struggle to afford gas and electricity.

A Yellow Card system should be rolled out nationally to allow people at risk of sanctions a second chance in case of genuine mistakes or unavoidable missed opportunities.

People undergoing assessments for sickness and disability benefits should be seen by health care professionals with specific expertise on their medical condition. 

Wirral Globe: Labour MP Frank Field speaks at the All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Hunger in the UK in the House of Commons, London which launches a blueprint to eliminate hunger in Britain by 2020. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday December 8, 2014. Th

Frank Field: 'We need a properly functioning welfare safety net'

Mr Field said: "Hunger was described to us as an injustice which extends well beyond the individual and has lasting impacts on children, extended families, entire communities and across generations.

"While there were countless harrowing stories of painful decisions that people made just to get by, we also encountered uplifting stories of communities and individuals developing resilience in the face of destitution.

"While this community response undoubtedly represents the better nature of human beings, an emergency response adopted by the general public and voluntary organisations must never be confused with a properly functioning welfare safety net.

"Given that they have borne the brunt of the cuts made by successive governments since 2010, families on low incomes must be at the front of the queue for any new monies being made available in the spending review."

Wirral Globe: Heidi Allen spoke against the tax credit cuts but couldn't being herself to vote against them

Heidi Allen: 'Voluntary organisations sinking under weight of responsibility'​

Ms Allen said: "For the most vulnerable people in our society any reduction, delay, or loss of income from work or benefits brings into play food banks, rising debt, high risk loans and the risk of destitution.

"The phenomenal volunteers and community workers who care for this group have made it clear that the state is failing in its obligation to guarantee a national minimum standard of living. We agree with them.

"Voluntary organisations are at risk of sinking under the sheer weight of responsibility vacated by the state without the necessary funds.

"A new balance must be struck between the state and the charitable sector to ensure that all people can access basic essentials and good quality, nutritious food in a way that is dignified."