UK hunger – the worst is yet to come if we don't act

By Bernadette Meaden
October 23, 2016

First, please watch this short video which is only one minute long. Who in the DWP thinks it is appropriate to sanction a mother with a two year old for four months? Do they even give a second's thought to how that child will be fed and kept warm as winter approaches?   

Second, people shocked by reports that hospital admissions for malnutrition have quadrupled in the last ten years should be aware that unless the government reverses many of its recent decisions and policies, much worse is yet to come.

The falling pound means that food prices are going to rise. Yet thanks to welfare reforms implemented by Iain Duncan Smith, and budget decisions taken by George Osborne, in recent years the incomes of the poorest people and families have fallen, and are set to fall further.

Even some Conservative MPs are becoming alarmed at the prospect. Heidi Allen, MP for South Cambridgeshire, has described planned cuts to Universal Credit as "a ticking time bomb", as they will make poor people even poorer.  It will happen gradually, as Universal Credit is rolled out across the country – an advancing tide of increasing poverty. Particularly affected will be low-paid workers, the self-employed, disabled people, and families with more than two children.

The Office For Budget Responsibility acknowledges in its latest Welfare Trends report  that: “As universal credit is now less generous on average than the tax credits and benefits systems that it replaces, the rollout of universal credit is expected to reduce spending.” The reduction will amount to £3.1 billion. That’s £3.1 billion out of the pockets of those people who are already struggling. This is one of the reasons why the IFS is predicting that child poverty will rise by 50 per cent in the next few years.

Recent research found that one in three foodbank users is a child  but some foodbanks say that in their area the figure is nearer to half of all users being children. How have we allowed our country to become one where so many children go hungry, or rely on the kindness of strangers to avoid starvation? And how can we stand idly by as policies are deliberately implemented that, far from helping the situation, will make it much, much worse?

If you know where your next meal is coming from, please raise your voice in support of the people who don’t. Raise your voice in protest at hunger created by government policy. Donating food to your local foodbank is a very good thing to do, but surely we have to stop the policies that lead to people needing foodbanks. Here are two campaigns you can get involved in;

Cradle2Grave  hopes to fund a poster campaign throughout the UK calling for a halt to the demolition of the welfare state (, and End Hunger UK aims to create a groundswell of pressure on politicians.

Please get involved in whatever way you can.


 © Bernadette Meaden has written about political, religious and social issues for some years, and is strongly influenced by Christian Socialism, liberation theology and the Catholic Worker movement. She is an Ekklesia associate and regular contributor. You can follow her on Twitter: @BernaMeaden




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