A COALITION of charities put further pressure on the Government
over poverty in Britain last week, when it accused it of violating
the human right to food, and of breaching international law.
A report, Going Hungry? The human right to food in the
UK, by the Just Fair Consortium - which includes the foodbank
charity the Trussell Trust, Church Action on Poverty, and End
Hunger Fast - argues that reforms to the welfare system and delays
in receiving benefits had pushed an "unprecedented" number of
people into food poverty.
Figures released by the Trussell Trust last week said that the
charity's foodbanks (of which there are more than 400) gave out
three days' worth of emergency food parcels 913,000 times in the
past financial year. This represented an increase of 163 per cent
from the previous 12 months.
Jamie Burton, who chairs the consortium, said: "The Government
is legally required, under international human-rights law, to
secure the human right to adequate food for everyone in the UK. We
call on the Government to take immediate action to ensure that no
one in the UK is denied their most basic right to sufficient and
The case made by the Just Fair Consortium rests on Article 11 of
the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights,
of which the UK is a signatory. The Article guarantees everyone the
right to access to adequate food.
The report recommends that the Government introduce a higher
Living Wage to close the gap between income and food costs, as well
as scrapping changes to the benefits system such as the increases
in sanctions and the benefits cap.
A spokesman for the Department for Work and Pensions said,
however, that a recent report by the Organisation for Economic
Co-operation and Development had found that food poverty had gone
down under the current Government.
The proportion of those in the UK who said that they were
finding it difficult to afford food dropped from 9.8 per cent in
2007 to 8.1 per cent in 2012, the spokesman said.
Nevertheless, support for foodbanks continues to grow in many
areas. A Mail on Sunday investigation into one Trussell
Trust foodbank provoked a backlash and an increase in donations to
its Easter appeal.
A Mail on Sunday reporter was able to obtain food
parcels after pretending that he had become unemployed. After a
report of the sting was published, however, donations to the
charity's online appeal rose to more than £60,000, from almost 5000
Before the investigation was published, only 250 people had
contributed to the appeal. Many of the recent donors wrote on the
fundraising page that their donation was inspired by the Mail
on Sunday report.
One donor, Victoria Holland, said: "I'm horrified that the
Daily Mail are trying to discredit the work carried out by
foodbanks, but heartened so many people have donated."
Another, Lindsay Dade, said; "The Daily Mail is vile -
but at least its reporting has brought your work to public
attention. I'm ashamed to live in a rich country where the poor go
hungry. Please keep doing what you do so well."
Fasting priest and food
campaigner the Revd Dr Keith Hebden says the Church must speak up
for the hungry