Dear Mr Warburton,
I am writing to ask that you urgently work to address the root causes of growing poverty and food insecurity in our constituency. In the sixth richest economy in the world, no one should be in the position of having to resort to a food bank or similar service because of lack of income.
The Independent Food Aid Network (IFAN) of which Fair Frome is a member, has identified at least 1,172 independent food banks operating across the UK in addition to 1,393 Trussell Trust food banks, and food banks run by schools, universities, hospitals, and the Salvation Army.
Yet food bank use represents the tip of the iceberg when it comes to wider food insecurity levels. Recent Food Standards Agency data show that 4% of people in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland used a food bank in the 12 months up to June 2021, but 16% of people went hungry or reduced their food intake due to lack of income. Take up of our food bank here in Frome has increased significantly in recent weeks even before the latest cost of living rises.
There was a poverty crisis in the UK before the start of the pandemic. Cost of living rises which Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) data show that 43% of households on Universal Credit were food insecure in the year before April 2020. New DWP data show that from April 2020 to March 2021, 27% of households on Universal Credit, with a £20 increase to weekly payments, were food insecure yet the Government cut this much-need uplift to its main social security payment in October 2021.
Since the cut to Universal Credit, the end of the furlough scheme and the start of the cost-of-living crisis, demand for emergency food parcels and other food aid has been increasing. Poverty and destitution levels are on the rise and people of every age are being impacted.
The cut to Universal Credit, the 5-week wait for a first payment, inadequate benefit payments, dramatic cost of living increases, low wages, insecure work, the benefit cap, two-child-limit, the sanctions system, and No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF) status are all behind the rapidly increasing need for charitable food aid across the UK. Food banks and similar services often run by volunteers are reaching breaking point.
People resort to using food banks because they cannot afford to buy food. However, an emergency supply of food will not resolve financial crisis and can only act as a temporary sticking plaster. The distribution of emergency food parcels cannot address the escalating poverty driving food bank use and wider food insecurity. What’s more, the impact of poverty and food insecurity on people’s physical and mental health inevitably comes at enormous human cost and strains public finances through the provision of NHS and other support.
Like the Independent Food Aid Network, I would like to see the end for the need for charitable food aid in the UK. Everyone living in our society should be able to afford food and other essentials.
It’s vital that measures are urgently introduced that will ensure cash first, income-based solutions to growing food insecurity:
- benefits must be uprated by at least 8% in line with inflation
- the 5-week wait for Universal Credit, benefit cap, two-child limit, sanctions system, and No Recourse to Public Funds status must be removed
- wages should match the cost of living and job security must be ensured
- crisis payments in the form of cash must be available, easily accessible, and well-promoted in every local authority in the UK
We very much look forward to hearing from you.
Chair and on behalf of the Trustees