Millions are reportedly going hungry in lockdown Britain
Just as the UK sends £200m in aid to help developing nations battle coronavirus, and as food banks crater as volunteers isolate, it is reported by the FT that a shocking 3 million people in the UK will go hungry in the lockdown. Many admit to having gone a whole day without eating anything as the coronavirus fallout leaves vulnerable people hungry and unable to access vital food supplies.
A YouGov poll commissioned by the Food Foundation exposes the shocking reality of how the prolonged but necessary lockdown, coupled with some people’s selfishness, is impacting low-income households.
In addition, Welfare Weekly reports that – an estimated 7.1 million people say someone in their household has had to reduce or skip meals because they could not access or afford sufficient sustenance
Of the 8.1 million people (16%) in Britain who are believed to be facing food insecurity during this crisis, 21% don’t have enough money to buy adequate food supplies, 50% were unable to get the food they needed from the shops due to shortages and 25% were unable to leave their homes and had no other way to get the food they needed.
The Food Foundation suggests this may be a short-term problem, given that panic-buying and food shortages have finally shown signs of subsiding. But just three weeks into the lockdown, more than three million people have already begun borrowing money from friends and family or taking out personal loans.
Worryingly, 43% of those surveyed by YouGov did not believe they are entitled to any kind of Government support to help them through this difficult time, despite over a million people losing the entirety of their income.
A Government spokesperson said: “Public safety and making sure that those most at risk from the virus get the support they need is our top priority. People should stay at home, to help protect our NHS and save lives. We’re working with the groceries industry, local government, local resilience and emergency partners to ensure essential items are delivered as soon as possible to the most vulnerable.”
The Food Foundation is calling on local authorities to improve and scale-up welfare assistance schemes that provide nutritious food parcels for people who are self-isolating.
They are also urging the Department for Work and Pensions to end the minimum five-week wait for a Universal Credit payment, adding that the current option for advance payments forces people to choose between hardship now or hardship later – advances have to repaid through deductions to a claimant’s monthly payment.
The foundation is also demanding an end to the cruel benefit cap and an increase to child benefit for parents who are struggling to put food on the table for their children.
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However, the Foundation welcomes the Government’s free school meal replacement programme, which means that 63% of eligible households with children between 8 and 16 years of age will continue to receive help in the form of food vouchers. But despite this welcome announcement, it still leaves 507,000 children without the free school meals on which they relied before the lockdown, and more than 260,000 will still not receive the support they need over the Easter bank holiday.
The UK faces an additional child poverty crisis to that above with rates likely to soar in the coming months, charities have warned. The latest official statistics showed a 100,000 increase in the number of young people living below the breadline before the COVID-19 outbreak, that now puts a total of 4.2 million children at risk. Around 14.5 million people are living in poverty, including 8.1 million people in working families, and 4 million are in “deep poverty.”
In addition, around one million people have applied for the main unemployment benefit universal credit over the last few weeks after losing their jobs as a result of factories, shops and businesses closing.