I am afraid this is not a message of hope in this season of peace and good will to all people as there is yet further evidence of the extent of poverty and inequality in the UK.
A third damning and well-researched All Party Parliamentary Report, “Feeding Britain”, funded by the Archbishop of Canterbury, was issued on December 8th.
The report blames low-paid jobs, rising living costs, debt/high cost of credit as well as poorly administered benefits for the increase in the number of people using food banks. There are now 420 Trussell Trust food banks operating in the UK with the highest number in the North-West.
It finds that, between 2003 and 2013, food, fuel and housing inflation were higher in Britain than in any other advanced western economy. Britain experienced the highest rate of general inflation. Over the 10-year period from 2003 to 2013 prices increased by 30.4% in Britain, 28.4% in the United States, 19.8% in France and 19.6% in Germany.
Britain experienced the highest food inflation. In the decade from 2003 food inflation was 47% in Britain, 30.4% in the United States, 22.1% in Germany and 16.7% in France.
Britain experienced the highest fuel inflation. Between 2003 and 2013, the price of electricity, gas and other fuels increased by 153.6% in Britain, 76% in Germany and 58.8% in France.
Britain experienced the highest housing inflation. Between 2003 and 2013, rents increased by 30.4% in Britain, 26.7% in France and 11.6% in Germany.
Britain has a history of very large numbers of very low-paid employees. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development calculates the average income of the bottom 20% of households in Britain at just $9,530, much lower than the poorest 20% in France ($12,653), Germany ($13,381), Belgium ($12,350), the Netherlands ($11,274) and Denmark ($12,183).
The report also blames frequent delays in benefits payment and harsh unreasonable penalties as a key factor in the rise of food bank use. It finds the DWP does not collect information on how long it takes claimants to receive their benefits.
The report presents the existence of hunger and poverty in Britain as a matter of utmost urgency. It recommends the creation of a new national network called “Feeding Britain”.
The group also emphasises the role supermarkets have to play in tackling the problem of food waste. It calls on the Waste and Resources Action Programme to set retailers and producers 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 terrible indictment on our Government that it is not providing the most basic needs for its citizens. The imposition of austerity cuts must stop. They are hitting the poorest people in society the hardest.
RBL Poppy Appeal