The Archbishop of Canterbury has warned that government policies on poverty and welfare reform have left too many people in Britain unable to feed their families. Justin Welby said that it was “a tragedy” that hunger still existed in the UK in the 21st century.
The Trussell Trust, in May revealed that it distributed enough emergency food to feed almost 1.1 million people for three days in 2014-15, although experts say the presence of thousands of other charity food outlets mean the true scale is almost certainly higher.
An all-party parliamentary group on hunger report says that hunger is now regarded as a “permanent fact of life“ in the UK’s poorest communities. Low wages, unstable employment and benefit delays, coupled with an inability to pay rent and household bills had brought “a sense of defeat” to many disadvantaged families, the report says. Hunger had been “woven into the lives of people for whom going without food on a daily basis is now almost inevitable”. It added: “Hunger too often acts like the thief in the night, sneaking up and overpowering all too many families in this country.” It cites evidence from food banks which describes parents going without meals for up two days at a time, in order that they can feed their children, as “part of a pattern of life” in disadvantaged areas, although it added that this was difficult to quantify because of a “dismal” lack of robust official evidence on the prevalence of food insecurity. It notes that food banks report an increase in the proportion of their clients who are in work. Dubbed “once-a-monthers” by one charity, this group cannot make low wages stretch to the end of the month and rely on food parcels as a “necessary tool for survival”.
It warns that universal credit, which will eventually replace several existing social security benefits, is likely to drive up food bank use because it there is a long “built-in” 42-day waiting period before new claimants receive payment.