DICK Bellringer maintains that my commitment to fairness cannot be squared with support for the coalition Government's reforms (Postbag, June 5).
His denial of “benefits dependency” just cannot be squared with the mathematical reality: that under the previous tax credit regime, hundreds of thousands of households faced losing between 80 per cent and 100 per cent of their benefits if they took a job, removing any significant economic incentive to work.
The benefits system should indeed be a “springboard to better things”, but sadly this is all too often not the case.
Mr Bellringer is right that I want to reject the unhelpful rhetoric around poverty and want the Government to find practical solutions to food poverty and child poverty.
It is not clear-cut, however, that lack of money is the primary cause of poverty of aspiration, or poverty of positive family relationships and parenting skills.
These forms of poverty are not 'symptoms'
but are tied together in complex ways in different individual situations.
I chaired an evidence session in Salisbury last Friday for the All Party Parliamentary Inquiry on Food Poverty.
It became clear that poverty had many causes. Benefits delays and poorly enforced sanctions will have a real effect on people’s financial well-being and this was reinforced during the evidence sessions.
But many other factors also mattered: lack of access to good-value utility and mobile packages, lack of cooking skills and access to cooking facilities creating reliance on more expensive food, and the presence of mental health problems and illiteracy which impacted on job searching.
No doubt the Labour administration moved forward on hitting statistical targets through tax credits, but dealing with the relational aspects of poverty will never be solved by government hand-outs alone.
Using the benefits system as a single blunt instrument simply fails to engage with the complexity of poverty and help those who are most in need of committed long-term support so that they will be able to live more independent fulfilling lives.
John Glen, MP Salisbury