Welfare reforms 'behind food poverty', warn major charities

Changes to the benefit's system are "a driver of food poverty" with 20 million meals claimed by people at risk of going hungry in Britain last year, a report from three major charities found.

Government hits out at food poverty report

The Government has rubbished a report which pointed to benefit cuts as fuel for the rise in food poverty.

It's simply not possible to draw conclusions from these unverified figures drawn from disparate sources.

They cover a wide variety of provision including food redistributed to places such as community cafes, lunch clubs for the elderly and children's breakfast clubs which are frequented by all sorts of people.

This report also overlooks basic facts about the strength of our welfare system. We provide a vital safety net, spending £94bn a year on working age benefits to support millions of people who are on low incomes or unemployed.

– A Government Spokesman

Read: Government must 'accept mistakes in policy'

Government must 'accept mistakes in policy'

The Government must "accept where mistakes in policy and practice are being made" if the surge in food bank use is to be tackled, a major report into food poverty recommended.

The Below The Breadline report said:

The Government must first commit to really understanding and monitoring the true scale of this problem, then set out ambitious steps to tackle it.

This will require a willingness to accept where mistakes in policy and practice are being made, and put in place measures to repair the social safety net.

It will also mean taking steps to ensure that people have decent, secure jobs so that they can earn their way out of poverty and to tackle the rising cost of living.

This will mean visionary policy making; but if these issues are not addressed, many people are going to continue to struggle.

– Below the Breadline

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Charities blame benefit reforms for food poverty

The introduction of Universal Credit and benefit cuts are "a driver of food poverty", according to a report from three major charities.

Read: Charities warn problem debt 'leaves children is distress'

Food bank
A volunteer at the Bromley Borough Foodbank in Orpington. Credit: PA

Oxfam, Church Action on Poverty and the Trussell Trust said, last year over 20 million free meals were given to people at the risk of going hungry because they could not afford food.

Analysis by Oxfam and Church Action on Poverty found that 20,247,042 meals were given to people in food poverty in 2013/14 by the three main food aid providers - the Trussell Trust, Fareshare and Food Cycle - an increase of 54% on the previous year.

The safety net provided by the welfare system seemed to be under threat because cuts to benefits are having a "severe impact on poor and vulnerable families".

Read: Food bank charity sees huge surge in donations after Mail on Sunday article