When my constituents started writing to me with their fears about the impact of the 'bedroom tax' I was shocked. So on 18 February I started living on a food budget of £18 a week and video-blogging about it each day. This is the amount some of my constituents will be left with to feed themselves in April. I expected to find that it was difficult and unsatisfying to live on this budget. What I didn't realise is just how unhealthy it would be too.
On day one I went to the supermarket to see what I could get for £18. There were lots of ready meals for a pound, but then I wouldn't have had enough for lunch and breakfast. Cheap things are in huge packs, so it's hard for single people. I got a pack of chicken pieces for £1.99, bread, pasta, biscuits and tea to drink. The only fresh vegetables I could afford were a fresh cabbage and potatoes, and I made a conscious decision to buy a piece of fruit for each day.
Most days I had porridge (made with water) for breakfast, and a cheese sandwich and a couple biscuits for lunch. So by 5 o'clock I was absolutely starving. Dinners were a mixture of chicken stew, baked potatoes and pasta. It's clearly impossible to eat a healthy diet of five fruit and vegetables everyday, and fish twice a week on £18.
Some nights I woke up at 2am hungry. I worked out by the end of the week that I had on average been eating 400 calories a day less than normal. So it is no surprise that by the afternoon on day four I felt I had no energy to do anything at all.
If you're on JSA and you're looking for work you need energy. If we want the unemployed to find jobs we need to make sure we are giving them enough money to feed themselves. It will be even worse for people on Workfare Schemes - supposed to go out and do physical work for their benefits.
The explosion of food banks in the UK tell a truly shocking story. Increasing numbers of low-paid and benefit-dependent households are being forced to use charity food sources to sustain themselves. Tory ministers have an awful lot of catching up to do on the reality of the nutritional recession affecting large numbers of people in the UK.
And on the day that the bedroom tax will be introduced, adversely effecting 660,000 low paid and benefit dependent households in the UK, the Chancellor is giving a tax cut - worth £1,000 per week - to the wealthiest in our society. So much for we're all in it together....