Welfare reform, poverty wages and food price inflation. These are causing a rise in hunger in Britain.
Not everyone agrees with us, so let’s deal with the central argument from those sceptics who claim the problem hasn’t got worse – and that food banks are simply serving ‘demand’ that was already there.
Government ministers are particularly guilty of this and regularly suggest the problem was:
- just as bad, but unreported, under the previous Government;
- the increase is actually a good thing, since users are being referred by the Department for Work and Pensions when they otherwise would have gone hungry.
There is no evidence for either of these assertions. And, tellingly, the Government are still refusing to publish the only report they have commissioned that might do so.
Whilst it is fair to say there are a host of contributing factors, including awareness in food banks and a change in referral processes, to excuse the growth on hunger on these points alone flies in the face of mounting evidence. Studies which HAVE been published suggest the poorest in Britain are indeed facing a triple whammy of welfare cuts, wages stagnation and food inflation.
- Walking the Breadline, a report by Church Action on Poverty and Oxfam, reveals that cuts and changes to the welfare system are the most common reason for people resorting to food banks.
- Stats from Citizens Advice in August 2013 show a 78% rise in enquiries about foodbanks in the past six months, noting millions of families are facing the perfect storm of pressures on their budgets.
- Research from the Institute of Fiscal Studies reports that, despite signs of an economic recovery, real wages (the measure that actually matters to the majority of British families) are not expected to recover for several years to post financial crash levels.
- An analysis this month from Newcastle city council showed that councils in the ten most severely deprived areas of England are facing cuts averaging 25.3% in the period 2010-11 to 2015-16, compared with only 2.54% in the 10 least deprived areas.
- Or the Scottish Government report published in December last year which concludes that there was a 170% increase in demand in 2012-13 – with benefit changes, delays and sanctions causing at least half of the referrals.
These are just five examples from non-profit, academic and government research – and they paint a very clear picture. Hunger in the UK is getting worse.
So the message is clear from us – the Government must act to safeguard the health of its most vulnerable citizens. And citizens need to act to make sure the Government carries out this duty of care.
Please pledge to join our national day of fasting on April 4th today.