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Charities accuse Government of breaching human right to food

25 April 2014


Helping out: David Walters, a volunteer at a Trussell Trust foodbank in Orpington, south-east London, on Wednesday last week  

Helping out: David Walters, a volunteer at a Trussell Trust foodbank in Orpington, south-east London, on Wednesday last week  

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 adequate food."

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 new supporters.

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


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