Hunger a national crisis in UK, religious leaders tell David Cameron

Last Updated: Wednesday, April 16, 2014 - 20:10

London: British government must take action to tackle a "national crisis" of rising hunger as more than a million Britons, including 330,200 children, have been helped by food banks last year, religious leaders appealed today.

In a signed letter, over 40 Anglican bishops and 600 church leaders, called on Prime Minister David Cameron, Deputy Premier Nick Clegg and Opposition leader Ed Miliband to tackle the causes of food poverty, including low wages, rising food prices and an inadequate welfare benefit safety net.

The letter said the period running up to Easter had been a time of "sorrowful and deep reflection" for people of all faiths on what it calls the terrible rise in hunger in Britain, and urged society to "begin rising to the challenge of this national crisis".

The letter coincides with the release of data by the Trussell Trust, the UK`s biggest food bank network, which showed 913,138 people ? including 330,205 children ? were the beneficiaries of its food parcels in 2013-14, up from 346,992 in 2012-13, registering a whopping 163 per cent increase.

The Trussell Trust said a third were given to repeat visitors but that there was a "shocking" 51 per cent rise in clients to established food banks. It said benefit payment delays were the main cause.

The Trust said its figures represented "just the tip of the iceberg" of food poverty and demonstrated that many British citizens on low incomes, especially those reliant on benefits, were finding it harder to make ends meet.

The UK government says there was no evidence of a link between welfare reforms and the use of food banks.

But the Trust said benefits payments had been a particular problem since welfare changes were introduced just over a year ago.

Some 83 per cent of food banks reported that benefits sanctions - when payments are temporarily stopped - had resulted in more people being referred for emergency food.

"In the last year, we`ve seen things get worse, rather than better, for many people on low incomes," said Chris Mould, chairman of the Trussell Trust.

"It`s been extremely tough for a lot of people, with parents not eating properly in order to feed their children and more people than ever experiencing seemingly unfair and harsh benefits sanctions," the Guardian quoted Mould as saying.
Reacting to the report, a Department for Work and Pensions spokesperson said the Trussell figures were potentially misleading because it was unclear whether they had double- counted people who had made repeat visits to food banks.
"We`re spending 94 billion pounds a year on working age benefits so that the welfare system provides a safety net to millions of people who are on low incomes or unemployed so they can meet their basic needs," he sai

PTI

First Published: Wednesday, April 16, 2014 - 20:10

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