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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

Govt: We 'provide the cost' for daily job centre travel

The long-term unemployed who have to travel to the job centre every day in order to avoid sanctions on their benefits will be covered for travel by the Government, the Employment Minister said.

Esther McVey told Good Morning Britain the Government would "provide the cost" of travel for those who attend to job centre every day as part of the Help to Work scheme.

"What we are doing here is providing more support for more people. It's costing us money to do this because we believe everybody should benefit and if people can work, they should work."

'I am living out of the pocket of my widowed mother'

Two people living off unemployment benefits have spoken to Good Morning Britain about the challenges they face living on benefits.

Casper Gorniok has been unemployed for four years and is forced to rely on his elderly mother for financial support.

He said the tougher measures for the long-term unemployed which start today will give him "less time" to look for a job.

Govt failing to 'provide literacy training for jobseekers'

Labour have hit out at the Government for introducing tougher measures for the long-term unemployed but failing to assess the basic literacy and numeracy of benefit claimants.

Shadow employment minister Stephen Timms said:

Under David Cameron's government nearly one in ten people claiming Jobseeker's Allowance lack basic literacy skills and many more are unable to do simple maths or send an email.

Yet this Government allows jobseekers to spend up to three years claiming benefits before they get literacy and numeracy training.

A Labour government will introduce a Basic Skills Test to assess all new claimants for Jobseeker's Allowance within six weeks of claiming benefits.

– Stephen Timms

Read: Claimants face benefit sanctions or work scheme

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Work scheme will get people 'to a more secure future'

A Government scheme designed to get the long-term unemployed back into work or face benefits sanctions, will get more people "on the road to a more secure future", the Prime Minister has said.

David Cameron backed the Department of Work and Pensions tougher measures so "everyone who can work is in work".

A key part of our long-term economic plan is to move to full employment, making sure that everyone who can work is in work.

We are seeing record levels of employment in Britain, as more and more people find a job, but we need to look at those who are persistently stuck on benefits.

This scheme will provide more help than ever before, getting people into work and on the road to a more secure future.

– David Cameron

Read: New moves to tackle unemployment come in

Claimants face benefit sanctions or work scheme

Tougher measures designed to get the long-term unemployed off benefits and into work come in, with claimants facing penalties if they refuse to take part, the Government has said.

Read: Payments for jobless-related benefits £200 million lower

Jobcentre
Voluntary work could include gardening projects or restoring historical sites and war memorials, the Government said. Credit: PA

The Help to Work scheme will include "intensive" coaching, required meetings with advisers every day or a six month stint of community work.

Ministers pointed out there are more than 600,000 vacancies in the economy at any one time, saying that the new measures were intended to help unemployed people fill them.

Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith explained: "There's always more to do, which is why we are introducing this new scheme to provide additional support to the very small minority of claimants who have been unemployed for a number of years.

"In this way we will ensure that they too can benefit from the improving jobs market and the growing economy."

Read: 'Claimant commitment' for benefits rolled out

McVey: Many people starting 'new life off benefits'

The Employment Minister has said that a £200m fall in payments for jobless-related benefits means more people are "starting a new life off Jobseeker's allowance".

Esther McVey. Credit: Anthony Devlin/PA Archive/Press Association Images

Employment Minister Esther McVey said: "We've seen more people move off benefits than even the experts predicted - with the number of additional people starting a new life off jobseeker's allowance filling Wembley twice over.

"Our jobcentre advisers up and down the country are working with claimants to ensure that they have the skills and opportunities to get into work, and plan for a more secure future in their community."

Read: Payments for jobless-related benefits £200 million lower

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