It is a disgrace that so many rely on emergency food parcels in the seventh richest country in the world and that we need charities such as the ‘Crisis’ and ‘Shelter’ in the 21st century.
Rising living costs and the government’s welfare reforms have pushed thousands more households into poverty and hardship.
Nearly half a million people in the UK are now relying on food banks, leading charities claim yesterday..
A new report says rising living costs and the government’s welfare reforms have pushed thousands more households into poverty and hardship.
The study by Church Action Poverty and Oxfam calls for a Parliamentary inquiry into how the Government’s cuts, the increased use of sanctions and benefit error have driven up the number of “hidden hungry.”
Recent figures from the Trussell Trust, the biggest provider of food banks in the country, said the number of people using its services had leapt from 40,000 in 2009/10 to more than 350,000 in 2012/13.
In their report, Walking the Breadline, Oxfam and Church Action Poverty say the true number of hungry people could be as high as 500,000 because the problem is not being monitored properly.
They say the surge has been mainly caused by changes to the benefit system such as the toughening of crisis loan eligibility rules, delays in payments, Jobseeker’s Allowance sanctions and sickness benefit reassessments.
Oxfam boss Mark Goldring said: “The shocking reality is that hundreds of thousands of people in the UK are turning to food aid.
“Cuts to social safety-nets 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.”
Niall Cooper of Church Action on Poverty added: “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 are not designed to, and should not, replace the ‘normal’ safety net provided by the state in the form of welfare support.”
Shadow Environment Secretary Mary Creagh MP said: “The UK is the seventh richest country in the world yet we face a growing epidemic of hidden hunger with people increasingly unable to meet their family’s basic needs.
“These shocking figures show the extent of poverty in the UK with half a million people now relying on emergency food parcels for help.
“This incompetent government needs to wake up to the human cost of their failed economic policies and change course now.”
A Department for Work and Pensions spokeswoman said: “The benefits system supports millions of people who are on low incomes or unemployed so no-one has to struggle to meet their basic needs, and the vast majority of benefits are processed on time every day.
“We welcome the contribution voluntary organisations and foodbanks, including the Trussell Trust, play in supporting local communities, beyond the safety net provided by Government.
“That is why Jobcentre Plus – for the first time – is now referring people to their services.
“Our welfare reforms will improve the lives of some of the poorest families in our communities, with the Universal Credit simplifying the complex myriad of benefits and making three million households better off.”