Anti-poverty charities have urged the government to enact root and branch reform to the UK’s social security system, after presenting new data that underscored how poverty stems far back before the pandemic.
As pressure ramps up on Prime Minister Boris Johnson to abandon September’s planned £20-a-week cut to universal credit (UC), which at least one in seven Tory MPs now oppose, charities have called for reform to go further to address pre-pandemic destitution.
The Independent Food Aid Network (IFAN), Feeding Britain, researchers at the University of York and the Living Wage Foundation said that while the pandemic has exacerbated food insecurity – particularly for the self-employed and disabled – the underlying causes stretch back a decade.
Families with at least one disabled member and receiving welfare payments suffered a real terms annual cut of £624 between 2010 and 2020, according to the House of Commons Library, whereas families without a dsiabled member and not receiving welfare saw a real terms annual increase of £728.
“Food banks cannot continue to take responsibility for the impact of a broken disability benefits system and insecure and inadequately paid employment,” said Sabine Goodwin, coordinator of IFAN, which represents over 500 independent food aid organisations.
“As the upcoming cut to Universal Credit is set to push yet more people into poverty and food insecurity, it is more important than ever that the government makes fundamental changes to the social security system and ensures that wages and working hours match the cost of living,” she said.