‘Poverty is...’ Morecambe residents tell visiting MPs truth about low income and Universal Credit

Siobhan Collingwood, head of Morecambe Bay Primary School, Frank Field MP, Heidi Allen MP and Annette Smith, Foodbank Manager.
Siobhan Collingwood, head of Morecambe Bay Primary School, Frank Field MP, Heidi Allen MP and Annette Smith, Foodbank Manager.
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MPs on a tour of foodbanks in the UK visited Morecambe to hear more about poverty in the town.

Conservative MP Heidi Allen and independent MP Frank Field spoke to foodbank users, as well as foodbank manager Annette Smith, and Siobhan Collingwood, head of Morecambe Bay Primary School.

Representatives from the NHS, charity and education sectors, as well as The Poverty Truth Commission and Citizen’s Advice also attended.

Local people spoke of living in poverty and being affected by Universal Credit and changes to the benefits system.

In a “letter to poverty” Morecambe resident Trina Lawrie spoke of a family with five children having to heat their house with broken pallets that they got from the DIY shop, because they couldn’t afford to pay for gas.

She said: “Poverty is breaking your back carrying the copper pot to Sainsburys to cash it in on the Coinstar machine. You know they’re going to take seven per cent but you’ve got no bread and milk, your best mate has no washing powder, and the lass next door has got no nappies.

“We deserve more respect from the powers that be, and our MP, than to be called liars, trolls and troublemakers.”

A spokeswoman for Morecambe Bay Foodbank said that between January and December 2018, there was a sharp increase in people of “low income” visiting the foodbank, proof she said that the benefit cap and low wages are really starting to bite in this area and that “many people that we see are in work and still can’t make it”.

Heidi Allen MP said: “I want to do this because it seems to me that government thinks that Universal Credit is this amazing system...and it all fits and it’s all fine, but a lot of us know that it’s not like that.”

Mr Field and Ms Allen are members of the Work and Pensions Select Committee and are preparing a report based on the visits they have been making.