Letter: Welfare system used as a tool to punish the poor

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I’d like to thank the YEP for publishing an article this week that raised awareness of the 27,000 people in Leeds that are clinically malnourished.

I think the public understand that isolated elderly people who are unable to cook or shop are at risk but I feel the article did most good by highlighting the problems at the other end of the generational scale.

There are parts of our city in which 40 per cent of our children are growing up in poverty. I for one do not want to see children in Leeds going hungry and feel something must be done. Initially I felt that increasing donations to free breakfast clubs or food banks might be the answer but these do not solve the root causes of the problem.

I think the root causes are twofold. One, Department for Work and Pensions figures show that the new benefits regime is increasing the use of temporary punishments, by sanction of Jobseeker’s Allowance. In addition to this, the government’s introduction of disability tests for Employment and Support Allowance have seen benefits for the disabled cut.

The second - and by far the greatest root cause - is debt. I feel doorstep lending and high interest pay day loans are causing many to prioritise paying interest on their debts over buying food. If the people having to pay this interest happen to be parents, then their children suffer too. I think to begin to tackle this problem we would need a government to bring in legislation to cap the interest rates that payday loan and doorstep lending companies can charge. In addition to this I think we need a reform of the welfare system so that it acts as a safety net, so children in poor families do not go hungry. However, I feel our current government are using charity run food banks as a safety net and the welfare system as a tool to punish the poor.

Scott Nicholson, Leeds

New colony of Humboldt penguins in the new Costal Zone at Lotherton Hall.
21st November 2017.
Picture Jonathan Gawthorpe

YEP Letters: November 22