Coalition is doing nothing to help hungry families

Damning new report finds that food banks are carrying out their work completely without government help

Damning new report finds that food banks are carrying out their work completely without government help

In a report published today, the All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Hunger in the UK has hit out at the coalition for failing to support the growing number of hungry people in Britain.

Feeding Britain was funded by the Archbishop of Canterbury, and is likely to strain relations between the Tories and the church.

The report blames low paid jobs, rising living costs and  a poorly administered benefits system for the increase in the number of people using food banks.

There are now 420 Trussell Trust food banks operating in the UK. The group commends groups like the Trussell Trust, which it says are carrying out their work without central government assistance.

The report states that food bank use in advanced western economies is a new phenomenon – thirty years ago it would have been unthinkable that British people could starve. It criticises government policies which have led to the ‘erosion of an effective national minimum that has led to the existence of hunger and the rise of the food bank movement in its wake’.

The report gives a series of damning figures explaining why so many people in the UK are being pushed to the economic brink. It finds that, between 2003-2013, food, fuel and housing inflation was higher in Britain than in any other advanced western economy. For example, in this decade food inflation in Britain was 47 per cent, compared to 30.4 in the US.

Against this trend, wage inflation has been much too low; the OECD calculates that the average income of the bottom 20 per cent of British households is $9,530, much lower than the equivalent in other western economies.

The report also blames frequent delays in benefits payment as a key factor in the rise of food bank use. It finds that the DWP does not collect information on how long it takes claimants to receive their benefits, and states that:

“We believe the government must urgently reform the benefits system so it is able to deliver payments quickly within five working days. We fully understand this will take time to achieve.

“But the Department for Work and Pensions must begin this process of reform by ensuring it has the data to measure the time between a claim being made and the claimant receiving their first payment.”

The report presents the existence of hunger in Britain as a matter of utmost urgency, emphasising that ‘the hour is late. Each day that passes sees people hungry for the first time, while others continue to suffer their hunger’.

It recommends the creation of a new national network called ‘Feeding Britain’, composed of the food bank movement and other voluntary organisations, as well as eight cabinet ministers.

The report asks for government help in establishing twelve pilot projects to draw together expertise to eliminate hunger, and calls for a rise in minimum wage and the provision of free school meals during holidays.

Shifting the focus momentarily from government failings, the group also emphasises the role that supermarkets have to play in tackling the problem of food waste. It calls on the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) to set retailers and manufacturers the goal of doubling the proportion of surplus food that is distributed to providers of food assistance.

Nobody wants to use a food bank. It is a damning indictment of our government that it is not assisting in the provision of the most basic needs for its citizens.

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