British food banks prepare for the worst when COVID-19 aid comes to an end
Charity boards in the UK prepare for the worst as the government begins unwinding the emergency relief measures that have been put in place to help cushion the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on millions of low-income workers and households.
An additional weekly payment of £ 20 ($ 27) to help the country’s poorest families will be cut next month and an uncertain future for more than a million workers as the UK becomes the first major economy to end its COVID-19 employment support program .
Food banks that distribute staples from dried pasta to baby food are particularly concerned about the loss of the Universal Credit (UC) top-up, which is claimed by nearly 6 million people, according to official statistics.
“You will have parents who go without food so their children can eat,” said Garry Lemon, director of policy and research at the Trussell Trust, which supports more than 1,200 food banks across the UK.
“I’ve spoken to a lot of food banks over the past few weeks and they are absolutely preparing for the worst … They are doing everything they can to make sure they get enough food to meet the growing demand.”
The UK move comes as other countries begin finalizing government aid programs announced last year as COVID-19 weighed on the global economy.
In the United States, pandemic unemployment benefits, which supported millions of unemployed, gig workers and business owners, ended in early September, one month after a moratorium on home evictions expired.
Australia and Canada have also announced that they will end income subsidies in the near future.
A UK government spokesman said the increase in income has always been temporary and has been effective in mitigating the impact of the pandemic on family finances.
But antipoverty Groups said losing the performance bonus would deal a serious blow to low-income Britons.
This is also because rising gas prices usher in higher household energy bills, with the average household expected to pay £ 139 more each year.
“The last time I used it (a chalkboard) the children hadn’t had dinner for six days,” said Emma, who has three young children, and only wanted to be identified by their first names.
Emma said the family was behind on bills due to the financial pressures of the pandemic and the cut in benefits would hit them hard.
“Once you’re in this downward financial spiral, it’s so hard to get out because you’re constantly chasing,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation over the phone.
“The only bill you can change from week to week is your grocery bill,” said Emma, who shares her experience with the Covid Realities research project, which is tracking the impact of the pandemic on low-income parents and carers.
Emma said she went to a blackboard every few months – with the aim of minimizing visits so as not to deprive anyone in an even worse situation.
“It will be more regular (now) – it makes me so angry because we never thought we’d have to. We’re not a wealthy family, but we’ve never been this bad. I don’t see any way out, ”she said.
‘ALMOST FULL CAPACITY’
Nationwide, more than 800,000 people are in the poverty by the cut in benefits, according to the British think tank Legatum Institute.
One-fifth of those eligible for the benefit said they are “very likely” to have to skip meals once the increase is withdrawn, according to a survey of more than 2,000 people conducted for the Trussell Trust.
A similar number said they would have a hard time being able to afford to heat their homes.
“Independent food banks are adapting to increasing demand as well as the challenges of food shortages and declining donations,” said Sabine Goodwin, the coordinator of the Independent Food Aid Network.
At Moray Food Plus, a food bank in Scotland, Mairi McCallum said they were already “almost at full capacity”.
“We are concerned about the negative impact the UC cut will have and the strain it will place on our organization,” said McCallum. “We can only do so much more.”
At a food bank in East London, where a stream of visitors came to get bags with essentials from the store, organizers had to limit the total number of visits to 12 per household.
“We’re getting new customers all the time,” said Jemima Hindmarch, a spokeswoman for The Bow Foodbank, adding that they are “constantly” concerned about supplies.
The effects of the power cut and rising heating costs in the winter months are likely to be “catastrophic” for people who are already struggling, she said.
“It just pushes people under a little” poverty Management.”