Food bank usage in the capital is on the rise as wealth inequality soars

While Londoners are driven to food banks in their hundreds, the richest in the capital keep raking in the chips.

The Conservatives may say that austerity is over, but the streets of Britain beg to differ.

According to the Trussell Trust’s latest figures, food bank usage is on the rise across London, with an increase of 23%. A record 72,239 three-day emergency food supplies were distributed in the capital between April and September this year.

And as food bank usage tends to rise in the second half of the financial year, charities are now worried the winter will spell out a crisis of hardship and hunger.

But while poverty continues to affect the lives of thousands of Londoners, the wealthiest in the capital are actually getting richer.

Data collected by the Resolution Foundation and published in September noted that wealth inequality is most pronounced in London, where the wealthier households are 24 times richer than the poorer ones.

London, of course, is well known for housing the highest number of billionaires per capita (92 in total, according to the Sunday Times Rich List 2018). Plus, around 3100 “ultra-high net worth individuals” – which is to say people with assets not including property worth £20 million and up –  live in London alone. Nearly double that number have second homes in the capital.

The two most conspicuous culprits of the capital’s gigantic wealth gap? Housing costs and Universal Credit.

Trussell Trust chief executive Emma Revie said:

“Our benefits system is supposed to anchor any of us from being swept into poverty, but if Universal Credit is to do that, we need to see urgent changes.

“It’s not right that people are being forced to use food banks after weeks of waiting for Universal Credit payments. The changes announced in last week’s Budget are a good start – but they won’t solve all of the problems food banks see, and they won’t help people making new claims this winter.

“Food banks cannot continue to pick up the pieces – we have to make sure our benefits system can protect people from hunger.”

Extortionate housing prices and the limited availability of social housing stock too continue to plight Londoners. But for those with deep pockets the housing market in London is a veritable gift that keeps on giving.

Labour London Assembly Member, Dr Fiona Twycross, added:

“It has been clear for a long time that one of the main drivers of food poverty is the shambolic roll-out of Universal Credit, that has left thousands of Londoners in near-destitution whilst waiting for their first payment.

“We are now seeing food banks becoming a normal and entrenched part of our society, and this should seriously concern us all.

“To turn this dire situation around, we need the government to stay true to their pledge and put an end to austerity, whilst applying the brakes on Universal Credit so it can be fixed before it can plunge anymore families into poverty.”

The Trussell Trust and the End Hunger Campaign will be delivering a national petition for the government to fix Universal Credit to Downing Street tomorrow, November 7.

The government is yet to comment.

Joana Ramiro is a reporter for Left Foot Forward. You can follow her on Twitter for all sorts of rants here.

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