church and public issues - archive
30 May 2013
News Release - Church Action on Poverty
Charities call for urgent Parliamentary Inquiry, as more than half a million people in the UK now hungry and reliant on food aid
A new hard-hitting report from Church Action on Poverty and Oxfam is warning of Britain's ‘hidden hungry', and highlighting the scandal of food poverty in 21st-century Britain.
The two charities, with the backing of the Trussell Trust, are calling for an urgent Parliamentary Inquiry into the relationship between benefit delay, error or sanctions, welfare reform changes, and the growth of food poverty.They are asking their supporters to speak out in support of the call.
Mark Goldring, Oxfam's CEO, said: "The shocking reality is that hundreds of thousands of people in the UK are also now reliant on food aid. Cuts to social security have gone too far, leading to destitution, hardship and hunger on a large scale. It is unacceptable that this is happening in the seventh wealthiest nation on the planet."
The report, Walking the Breadline, highlights causes of the increase in use of food banks: changes to the benefit system, unemployment, increasing levels of underemployment, low and falling income, and rising food and fuel prices. Changes to the benefit system are the most common reasons for people using food banks; these include changes to crisis loan eligibility rules, delays in payments, Jobseeker's Allowance sanctions, and sickness benefit reassessments.
The Trussell Trust, which is the biggest provider of food banks in the UK, had last month reported that more than 350,000 people turned to their food banks for help in the last year, almost triple the number who received food aid in the previous year. However, this new report is warning that the actual figure receiving food aid could be more than half a million people, as there are many non-Trussell food banks, and hunger is not being monitored properly by the Government. Government agencies must record and monitor people experiencing food poverty in the UK in order to establish more accurate numbers.
Niall Cooper, Church Action on Poverty CEO and the report's lead author, said: "The safety net that was there to protect people is being eroded to such an extent that we are seeing a rise in hunger. Food banks should not be replacing the ‘normal' safety net provided by the state in the form of welfare support."
The report recommends that:
- The House of Commons Work and Pensions Select Committee must conduct an urgent Parliamentary Inquiry into the relationship between benefit delay, error or sanctions, welfare reform changes, and the growth of food poverty.
- The Department for Work and Pensions must also publish data on a regular basis on the number and type of household who are deprived of their benefits by reason of benefit delay, error or sanctions; the numbers leaving and returning to benefits after a short period of time, and the number of referrals from Jobcentre Plus staff to local food banks.
- The Department for Work and Pensions must commission independent monitoring of the roll-out of Universal Credit, to ensure that there is no unintentional increase in food poverty.
- All referrals to food banks/emergency food aid provision, made by government agencies, must be recorded and monitored in order to establish more accurate numbers on people experiencing food poverty in the UK.
- HM Treasury must make tackling tax dodging an urgent priority, including promoting robust and coordinated international action at the forthcoming G8 meeting in Northern Ireland in June - to reduce the need for future cuts in benefits.
Church Action on Poverty invites anyone concerned about this to visit www.church-poverty.org.uk/foodfuelfinance . The report is freely available to download, and a simple e-action will allow you to send a message to your MP in support of the call for a Parliamentary Inquiry.