An explosion in poverty-related hunger in Britain is putting the government in danger of failing to meet its international human rights obligations to its most vulnerable citizens, charities have warned.
The UK is a signatory to a UN economic and social rights convention that sets out minimum standards of access to food, clothing and housing.
Campaigners say austerity measures could put the UK in breach of the convention as welfare cuts threaten to leave hundreds of thousands of low-income households unable to afford to eat regularly and healthily.
A 70-strong consortium of charities, including Crisis, the Citizens Advice Bureau, Age UK, the Disability Rights Alliance and the Child Poverty Action Group, has been formed to monitor the growth in UK food poverty, with a view to the possibility of triggering a formal UN investigation.
The consortium says the huge rise in emergency foodbanks over the past two years, and widespread evidence that children are arriving at school hungry and that poorer families are facing a stark financial choice between “heating or eating”, will be exacerbated by welfare reforms that come into force in April.
The combined impact of policies such as the overall benefit cap, local housing allowance limits, bedroom tax, cuts to tax credits and council tax benefit and the freeze in the value of welfare payments will have devastating consequences for Britain’s poorest, it says.
“For the first time in the UK you have got a developed country, the seventh richest in the world, unable to ensure working people can feed, clothe and shelter themselves,” said Jamie Burton, chairman of Just Fair, the charity leading the consortium.
“The rapid spread of UK food poverty shows that we are living in desperate times. Children are going to bed hungry and families are facing the distress and humiliation of needing emergency food parcels, some having had to walk for miles [to get them]. We believe this is wrong.”
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