NEW REPORT: Green MEP slams 'deliberate cruelty' of Universal Credit as South East foodbank use soars by 15% in just one year
Foodbank usage has risen by at least 15% in the South East over just the last year, according to a new report from Green MEP Keith Taylor.
The report 'Escalating Hunger in the South East', published on Monday details the extent to which people in the South East are increasingly having to rely on emergency food parcels as Universal Credit, welfare cuts and low pay continues to push more and more people into food poverty.
The report features insights from foodbanks across Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire, Berkshire, Hampshire, Surrey, Sussex, Kent and the Isle of Wight.
Only on the Isle of Wight has the number of people who were forced to use foodbanks fallen in the last year, from 4814 to 4100. In every other region in the South East, foodbank use continues to rise at an alarming rate.
Commenting on the latest findings, Mr Taylor said:
"Last year, the UN's rapporteur on extreme poverty found that the Conservative government had deliberately inflicted great misery on the most vulnerable people in Britain. This latest report only provides yet more evidence to support that inevitable conclusion."
"Ministers' punitive, mean spirited and callous austerity, including the dismal Universal Credit reform and swingeing welfare cuts, has seen an 85% rise in foodbank reliance, nationwide over the last five years."
"In just the last twelve months, the Government has overseen at least another 15% rise in foodbank dependency in my constituency alone. It is disgusting."
"An estimated 60,000 nurses in the UK used a foodbank in 2018. When our already undervalued nurses are being forced to rely on emergency food parcels, the reality of Britain’s record in-work poverty levels hit home."
"Low income continues to be the single biggest reason why people are forced to seek emergency food aid. In the UK, there are 14 million people living in poverty. Four and a half million of those are children. And seven million are from working households. A shocking 60 per cent of Britons in poverty are working."
"Over the last year, we have also seen continued benefit freezes and a huge expansion of the damaging changes wrought by Universal Credit. A broken and failed policy the UN relabelled ‘universal discredit’. When taken together, almost 40 per cent of people cite benefit changes and delays as the main reasons they are pushed into crisis. Cross-party MPs have slammed Universal Credit as ‘pointlessly cruel’. As if to prove the point, the government has now scrapped claimants’ £10 Christmas ‘bonus’; which had been paid since 1972."
"Since 2010, we have also seen the number of rough sleepers skyrocket by 169% under the Tories while homelessness has soared. In the South East, there are at least 27,000 people without a home. Poverty, homelessness and foodbank dependency are issues that are inexorably linked and have intensified in the last eight years. It is why, like last year, foodbanks remain one of Britain’s few booming industries."
"My report reveals a shameful side of the British economy that is deliberately hidden from view by the government. As wages fail to keep pace with the cost of living, which is, in turn, pushed up by the continuing Brexit shambles, and as the government continues to push ahead with Universal Credit foodbanks across the country are being forced into ‘crisis response’ mode."
"Foodbanks are a lifeline to those in need across the South East but they continue to be a stain on the Tories’ record on poverty. Some will say poverty isn’t political. Greens reject this. Poverty is clearly political and, for us, its elimination will always be a top priority."
Read the full report below