Walking the Breadline: The scandal of food poverty in 21st-century Britain | Food Bank | Poverty

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Although the UK is the seventh richest country in the world, many people struggle to afford even the most essential of goods: food. In this briefing, Church Action on Poverty and Oxfam highlight the rise in food poverty in the UK, where over 500,000 are now thought to be reliant on food parcels. Figures from the Trussell Trust, the biggest network of foodbanks in the UK, reveal that cuts and changes to the welfare system are the most common reason for people resorting to food banks. This growth in food aid demonstrates that the social safety net is failing. Church Action on Poverty and Oxfam believe that everyone should have enough income to feed themselves and their families with dignity, and that foodbanks should not replace the social safety net. This is why we are recommending, among other things, that the government conducts an urgent inquiry into the relationship between welfare changes and cuts, and the growth of food poverty.
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  Niall Cooper and Sarah Dumpleton May 2013 walking the  breadline the scandal of food poverty in 21st century britain  2 walking the breadline Acknowledgements. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 Executive summary. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3 Food poverty . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4 Food aid . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5 Hunger and stigma . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6 Food deserts. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7 Not enough . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9 Safety net no longer . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11 Beyond food banks . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15 There is an alternative . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16 Endnotes. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17 About us . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19 Case studies and testimonies in this report are drawn from Church Action on Poverty and Oxfam’s own work, and that of our networks and partners. The experiences and perspectives of those living in poverty are fundamental to this report. Our biggest thanks go to the participants, and their families, for giving their time to these projects and for sharing their lives with us. We hope this report does justice to their honesty and openness. Church Action on Poverty  is a national ecumenical Christian social justice charity, committed to tackling poverty in the UK. We work in partnership with churches and with people in poverty themselves to find solutions to poverty, locally, nationally and globally. Further information can be found at www.church-poverty.org.uk. Registered charity number 1079986. Company limited by guarantee, registered in England and Wales, number 3780243. Oxfam is an international confederation of 17 organisations networked together in 94 countries, as part of a global movement of people who share the belief that, in a world rich in resources, poverty isn’t inevitable. It’s an injustice which can, and must, be overcome. In the UK, we work to overcome poverty by developing projects with people living in poverty to improve their lives and show how things can change, and working with policy-makers to tackle the causes of poverty. For more information visit www.oxfam.org.uk/uk. Oxfam is a registered charity in England and Wales (no 202918) and Scotland (SC039042). Oxfam GB is a member of the international confederation Oxfam. This report was first published by Church Action on Poverty and Oxfam under Oxfam ISBN 978-1-78077-334-6 in May 2013. Church Action on Poverty, Dale House, 35 Dale Street, Manchester M1 2HF Oxfam GB, Oxfam House, John Smith Drive, Cowley, Oxford, OX4 2JY The report, and other resources on food poverty, are available at www.church-poverty.org.uk/foodfuelfinance. The report, and other resources on global poverty, are available at www.oxfam.org.uk/policyandpractice This report is published under a Creative Commons Licence CC-BY-NC-ND. This means that you are free to share (copy, distribute and transmit) the report, under the following conditions: Attribution . You must indicate that the report is by Church Action on Poverty and Oxfam, and can be downloaded from www.church-poverty.org.uk/foodfuelfinance or from www.oxfam.org.uk/policyandpractice (but not in any way that suggests that Church Action on Poverty or Oxfam endorses you or your use of the material). Non-commercial.  You may not use the material for commercial purposes. No derivative works. You may not alter, transform, or build upon the material.For any reuse or distribution, you must make clear to others the license terms of this work.Any of the above conditions can be waived if you get permission from Church Action on Poverty or Oxfam.Nothing in this licence impairs or restricts the author’s moral rights.Your fair dealing and other rights are in no way affected by the above.  AcknowledgementsContents  walking the breadline 3 The explosion in food poverty and the use of food banks is a national disgrace, and undermines the UK’s commitment to ensuring that all its citizens have access to food – one of the most basic of all human rights.We estimate that over 500,000 people are now reliant on food aid  – the use of food banks and receipt of food parcels – and this number is likely to escalate further over the coming months. This is substantially higher than the headline figure of 350,000 supplied by the Trussell Trust, as at least half as many people again are provided with food parcels or other forms of food aid by non-Trussell Trust food banks and other emergency food aid projects. Some of the increase in the number of people using food banks is caused by unemployment, increasing levels of underemployment, low and falling income, and rising food and fuel prices . The National Minimum Wage and benefits levels need to rise in line with inflation, in order to ensure that families retain the ability to live with dignity and can afford to feed and clothe themselves and stay warm.More alarmingly, up to half of all people turning to food banks are doing so as a direct result of having benefit payments delayed, reduced, or withdrawn altogether. Figures gathered by the Trussell Trust (see page 13) show that 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.There is clear evidence that the benefit sanctions regime has gone too far , and is leading to destitution, hardship and hunger on a large scale.There is a real risk that the benefit cuts and the introduction of Universal Credit (which will require internet access and make payments less frequently) will lead to even larger numbers being forced to turn to food banks . Food banks may not have the capacity to cope with the increased level of demand.The growth in food aid demonstrates that the social safety net is failing in its basic duty to ensure that families have access to sufficient income to feed themselves adequately . The exponential rise in the creation of food banks reflects a growing problem and only delivers mitigation. Food banks provide a vital emergency service to the people they support but they do not address the underlying structural causes for the growth of food poverty. Food banks should not replace the ‘normal’ safety net provided by the state in the form of the welfare state . Even in developing countries, food aid is increasingly seen only as an emergency stop-gap measure. International practice would now indicate a preference for cash payments over food handouts, not least because they distort local markets and are not part of a long-term development or anti-poverty strategy.It is unacceptable that whilst thousands are being forced to turn to food banks and millions are unable to meet the rising cost of living as a result of the Government’s austerity programme, wealthy individuals and corporations continue to dodge their obligation to pay their fair share of taxes .  Executive summary   Recommendations The House of Commons Work and Pensions Select Committee conducts an urgent 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 publishes 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 staff to local food banks.The Department for Work and Pensions 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, be recorded and monitored in order to establish more accurate numbers on people experiencing food poverty in the UK. HM Treasury 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, and restore the principle that benefits should at least rise in line with inflation.1.2.3.4.5. The explosion in food poverty and the use of food banks is a national disgrace  4 walking the breadline G overnment figures , last updated for 2010–11, show that around 13 million people are in poverty in the UK 1 . According to the Food Ethics Council, at least four million of them suffer from food poverty. 2 There is currently no established government measure of food poverty. A recent report by the Centre for Economics and Business Research defined households who have to spend more than 10% of their annual income on food as being in food poverty. The Food Ethics Council states that food poverty means that an individual or household isn’t able to obtain healthy, nutritious food – they have to eat what they can afford, not what they choose to. “Food poverty is worse diet, worse access, worse health, higher percentage of income on food, and less choice from a restricted range of foods.” Tim Lang, Professor of Food Policy at City University, London “A decade of national debt risks being followed by a decade of destitution. Food banks open across the country, teachers report children coming to school hungry; advice services and local authorities prepare for the risks attached to welfare reform. There is evidence of a rising number of people sleeping rough, and destitution is reported with increasing frequency.” Julia Unwin, Joseph Rowntree Foundation 3 In households which cannot afford an adequate diet for their children, 93% have at least one adult who ‘skimps’ on their own food to try to protect the children. Half a million children are not adequately fed in the UK today, not as a result of negligence but due to a lack of money.” Poverty and Social Exclusion UK 4 Food poverty Defining food poverty and acknowledging the reality Case study: the growth in food banks Denise is manager of Tower Hamlets Foodbank, part of the Trussell Trust network of UK Foodbanks. She says: “In 2011 and 2012, the Trussell Trust opened food banks at a rate of two or three per week. People are really struggling, and initially it was people that weren’t earning, that were on benefits, but now it’s hitting the working poor. It’s shocking to believe that in the UK, the seventh richest nation in the world, people are living in real dire poverty.”  De n i se  Be n t le y  ma nage s  To we r  Ha m le t s  Food ba n k I t’s shocking  tha t in  the se ven th riches t na tion  in the  world, people are  l i v ing  in real d ire po ver t y 
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