Food poverty – call for parliamentary inquiry

The number of people in food poverty is not being monitored properly, and could total more than half a million, according to a report from Oxfam and Church Action on Poverty. The report calls for an urgent parliamentary inquiry into the relationship between the benefits system and the growth of food poverty.

Key points

  • Over 500,000 people may now be reliant on food aid, and this number is likely to escalate further. On top of the 'headline' figure of 350,000 supplied by Trussell Trust (the main provider of food banks), many more people are provided with food parcels or food aid by other food banks and emergency projects.
  • Some of the increase in food poverty is caused by unemployment, falling incomes and rising prices. But 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half of all people turning to food banks are doing so as a direct result of having benefit payments delayed, reduced or withdrawn altogether.
  • Changes to crisis loan eligibility rules, delays in payments, jobseeker's allowance sanctions and sickness benefit reassessments are the most common benefit changes that lead to people using food banks.
  • There is a real risk that 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. The coalition government should commission independent monitoring of the roll-out of universal credit, to ensure there is no unintentional increase in food poverty.
  • Food banks should not replace the ‘normal’ safety net provided by the welfare state. The House of Commons Work and Pensions Select Committee should conduct an urgent inquiry into the relationship between benefit delay, error or sanctions, welfare reform changes and the growth of food poverty.

Source: Niall Cooper and Sarah Dumpleton, Walking The Breadline: The Scandal of Food Poverty in 21st Century Britain, Oxfam GB/Church Action on Poverty
LinksReport | Oxfam press release | CPAG press release | Labour Party press release | BBC report | Guardian report | Telegraph report

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Publication date: 
May 30 2013