‘Hunger crisis’ as UK fails its poor

20 May 19
The UK government is failing to meet its duty under human rights law to provide adequate food in England, an NGO has found.

A series of “cruel and harmful” policies is leaving the poorest in society without enough food, according to a Human Rights Watch report, out today.

A mixture of “austerity-motivated” welfare cuts since 2010, the rollout of universal credit and a failure to act on deteriorating living standards have led to a “hunger crisis”, the group said.

Kartik Raj, western Europe researcher at Human Rights Watch, said: “The way the UK government has handled its reduction in welfare spending has left parents unable to feed their children in the fifth-largest economy in the world.

“The UK government should ensure everyone’s right to food, rather than expecting charities to step in and fill the gap.”

The non-governmental organisation’s analysis of public spending data between 2010 and 2018 found that public welfare to assist children and families fell by 44% – far outstripping cuts in many other areas of government expenditure.

Despite this, the report said that the government has failed to “fully acknowledge its own responsibility” for growing food poverty.

The NGO said that the UK has a duty under international human rights law to ensure the right to adequate food but that successive governments have failed to treat it as equivalent to other human rights.

HRW called on the government to recognise the right to food in domestic law, repeal the two-child limit on welfare payments, end delays to accessing payments under universal credit and ensure benefit payments keep pace with inflation rates.

It also recommended that the government develops an anti-hunger strategy, which includes a legal requirement to measure food insecurity and to report the results to parliament.

Raj said: “This rise in hunger has the UK government’s fingerprints all over it. Standing aside and relying on charities to pick up the pieces of its cruel and harmful policies is unacceptable. The UK government needs to take urgent and concerted action to ensure that its poorest residents aren’t forced to go hungry.”

Margaret Greenwood, Labour shadow secretary for work and pensions, said: “The government must wake up to this catastrophe, end the benefit freeze immediately, stop the rollout of universal credit and make ending poverty the priority it should be.”

The Department for Work & Pensions has been approached for comment.

Read work and pensions select committee chair Frank Field’s article for PF on why the government must rescue families from destitution.

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