The APPG inquiry into hunger and food poverty in Britain published its final report in the House of Commons on Monday 8 December, having took evidence on the extent and causes of hunger, the scope of provision to alleviate it and a comparison with other Western countries.
The inquiry raised concerns over the late payments of benefits which have had a 'detrimental impact on poor and vulnerable claimants'. The report calls for benefits to be delivered within five days of a legitimate claim and for more discretionary payments to be made when delays occur.
Low income households saw the proportion of their incomes swallowed up by housing costs, utility bills and food soar by 31% to 40% between 2003 and 2012, leaving them little margin to cope with emergency expenses, found the inquiry.
The inquiry found the number of food banks run by the charity Trussell Trust had grown from a handful to 420 in the past 10 years, and that there may be at least as many food banks operating independently. The growth in food bank use is mirrored across Europe and the US, the inquiry found.
The report, 'A strategy for zero hunger' in Britain, made 77 recommendations, including:
- establish a national organisation called 'Feeding Britain' to drive a campaign to end hunger
- introduce a ‘Yellow Card’ system, warning benefit claimants of a possible sanction
- end government subsidies to destroy surplus edible food
- radically re-design food bank services to offer debt support and welfare advice
- provide education on cooking, parenting skills and budget management
- extend the reach of the Troubled Families programme to stop children repeatedly coming to school hungry.
The Inquiry published its first two evidence papers in the spring and summer 2014, focusing on long-term trends in household expenditure.
The APPG on Hunger and Food Poverty was established by Frank Field MP and Laura Sandys MP in October 2013, in order to proactively investigate the root causes behind hunger, food poverty and the huge increase in demand for food banks across Britain.