What is the social/environmental problem/issue that this project will address?
Britain isn’t eating. We face an enormous explosion of food poverty. More and more people are being left hungry and destitute by benefit changes, rising prices and low pay. Continued cuts in benefits and public spending are making the situation worse every month.
Churches and others are responding to the need by setting up food banks, but they are already struggling to keep up with the rising demand. More importantly, it is the role of government to provide a social safety net that protects the basic rights of all members of our society.
Charities, campaigners and MPs of all parties have repeatedly called for an inquiry into the crisis. But the government denies the link between rising food poverty and changes to the benefits system, and has ignored the calls for an inquiry.
Can you give us some statistics on this problem?
Research by Church Action on Poverty, Oxfam and the Trussell Trust showed that in 2012-13, 500,000 people were forced to turn to food banks and other forms of emergency food aid. Early indications suggest that further benefit changes since April have made the situation much worse; the numbers fed by food banks may well have tripled to one and a half million in 2013-14.
The Trussell Trust (the UK’s largest network of food banks) launched almost 150 new food banks in 2012-13, and during 2013 they were approving three new food banks a week. These figures are indicative of a much larger problem, as they do not include the parallel growth in independent food banks and other informal emergency food aid interventions provided by hundreds of churches, charities, housing associations and community groups.
What is your solution?
We are working with the All Party Parliamentary Group on Food Poverty , Oxfam and the Trussell Trust to launch an Independent Inquiry into food poverty and hunger, with the endorsement of . It will explore seven key questions: Why do families become hungry? What immediate food support exists and for how long is it required? How does the issue of debt influence this demand? What budgetary and household skills can be improved to help tackle this problem? How difficult is it now to live on benefits? How can the government's Work Programme be improved to better support families in food poverty? Why does it appear that the statutory services are largely inactive in the face of hunger? The Inquiry will publish a report, with recommendations that demand a response from the government.
How will you deliver this?
The Independent Inquiry will be overseen by a panel including a Bishop, parliamentarians from all the major parties, academics and others . The Inquiry members will visit projects, hold verbal evidence session, call for written evidence, and draw on findings from an Oxfam/Child Poverty Action Group/Church of England research project, and from Public Hearings across the country where people experiencing food poverty and organisations working with them give testimony. They will gather their evidence during 2014, and launch their report in early 2015.
This appeal aims to secure the funds to run up to six Public Hearings in different regions of the UK.