Socialist Worker

Rise in hunger has Tory ‘fingerprints all over it’, says human rights report

by Sadie Robinson
Issue No. 2655

Benefit changes have forced many to go to food banks

Benefit changes have forced many to go to food banks (Pic: Flickr/Matt Brown)


The Tories’ “cruel and harmful policies” are forcing children into poverty and hunger, according to a new report.

The Human Rights Watch (HRW) NGO said that austerity and benefit cuts mean tens of thousands of families across England don’t have enough to eat. It said the introduction of Universal Credit (UC) has “exacerbated the hunger crisis”.

And it said the government has breached its international duty to make sure people have enough food.

One young mother from Hull told the report, “Often, I have nothing left at the end of the week. I skip meals so my daughter can eat.

“When I skip meals, I get easily tired and don’t have energy, but you get used to it.”

The HRW said ministers have “largely ignored” the impact of their cuts. This includes “skyrocketing food bank use” and “children arriving at school hungry and unable to concentrate”.

The report looks at how Tory benefit freezes and other attacks have hit families with children. It focused on Hull, Oxford and Cambridgeshire, conducting 126 interviews with poorer families, food bank staff and school workers.

Mother of four Joanne from Cambridgeshire said benefit cuts and sanctions have forced her to use a food bank. “You really feel like you’ve let your kids down,” she said.

“I’ll have to gather my pennies together for a loaf of bread and butter so they have some toast.”

Suffering 

Allie said she’d been sanctioned for missing Job Centre appointments when suffering with severe morning sickness during a pregnancy. “I was literally throwing up down the phone saying I couldn’t come to the appointments,” she said. “They took £60 off my benefit for two months.

“When I first went on Universal Credit, after all the bills I had about £10 left. So when they sanctioned me I got into debt with council tax, water and the rent.”

HRW researcher Kartik Raj said, “The rise in hunger has the government’s fingerprints all over it.”

‘Fortress mentality’ means Tories ignore ‘unacceptable hardship’ of Universal Credit
‘Fortress mentality’ means Tories ignore ‘unacceptable hardship’ of Universal Credit
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The report said growing hunger is “a result of concrete policy choices to scale back the welfare state”.

It called on the government to end delays in accessing UC payments and to fully repeal the two-child limit to child benefit. It also said benefit payments should keep pace with inflation.

Philip Alston, the United Nations rapporteur on extreme poverty, was set to release his final report on Britain this week.

Unveiling his preliminary findings last year, Alston said the Tories are destroying lives with austerity and benefit cuts for “ideological” reasons.


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