Gaps in the government’s job retention and worker support schemes are causing food poverty on a worrying scale. Research published over Easter shows: the extent of job loss and income reduction and the impact on families’ ability to pay for food.
Citizens Advice (1) says some 6 million people (18% of the total workforce) have seen their hours cut, been laid off or made redundant. Nearly 4 in 10 households have lost income and one in 12 have lost 80% or more.
Meanwhile, the Food Foundation (2) reports “3 million people going hungry just 3 weeks into the lockdown”. Over 1.5 million say they don’t have enough money to buy adequate food supplies.
Both organisations propose urgent government action.
To address the employment support gaps Citizens Advice thinks the government’s new guidance for firms on the furlough scheme may help. If not, they should put more pressure on employers or give employees a right to income protection.
The Food Foundation proposes a national food aid scheme delivered through local authorities. They want more action to make food available to self-isolating households and ensure take-up of free school meals.
Both organisations also comment on benefits.
The foundation wants government to remove the 5-week wait for first payment of universal credit and the benefits cap. Citizens Advice thinks the employment changes are necessary to reduce the burden on the benefits system. (The charity also supports reform of universal credit and the benefits cap.)
1 Further fixes to coronavirus safety net needed as millions see hit to their incomes, Citizens Advice/Opinium, 10/04/20 2 Three million Britons are going hungry just three weeks into lockdown, The Food Foundation/You Gov, April 2020