Dear Prime Minister
The litmus for your One Nation Premiership will be your ability to reach out and tackle foodbank Britain.
The vison you set out on the steps of Number 10 for a Premiership committed to social justice and One Nation compassionate Conservatism was bold. The challenge of uniting a country divided by inequalities of health, life expectancy and opportunity is great.
But to achieve your goal of uniting the country, you will have to reach out far beyond struggling middle Britain of working families with mortgages and anxieties over getting their kids into a good school.
The past few years have been marked by the growth of foodbank Britain. Of families in and out of work struggling to put food on the table; of children turning up at school hungry and returning to school after summer holidays without the benefit of free school meals, poorly fed, with their educational attainment and life chances diminished as a result. Of families being forced to turn to foodbanks as a result of delays, errors and missing benefit cheques and over-zealously applied benefit sanctions.
Under David Cameron’s premiership, the Government sadly failed to grasp the nettle of Foodbank Britain. At times the Government gave the impression of being in denial about the scale or the problem, that problems with the benefits system had any role in exacerbating the problem or that the Government more generally had any role in seeking to address it. At others, it seemed to simply want to pass the buck to hard pressed teams of volunteers struggling to fill the gap by handing out emergency food parcels.
As a One Nation Prime Minister you can and must do better. You have a fantastic opportunity to reach out to the tens of thousands of volunteers and hundreds of thousands of people at the sharp end of foodbank Britain.
Nothing would demonstrate better that your Government is for everyone, than by setting a goal of halving the numbers needing to go to foodbanks by 2020. Nothing would demonstrate your qualities of moral and political leadership, than by committing Government to work with civil society, business and others to develop a coherent plan for achieving this.
You could start by challenging each of your new Cabinet colleagues in charge of a Department which has a stake in the issue – DWP, Health, Education, DEFRA, DCLG – to step up to the plate, and to come up with a plan for how they can help put an end to Foodbank Britain.
You can rest assured that if you give the lead, civil society, faith groups and the countless organisations involved in addressing these issues on the ground across the country, are ready and waiting.
Join with us. Work with us. Together we can end hunger within out shores.
Church Action on Poverty