Institute for Fiscal Studies research reveals that pensioners and unemployed people who depend on state benefits suffer the highest level of inflation as a direct result of having to concentrate their spending on food and heating. But it isn't only those on benefits who are disproportionately affected. Low-paid workers, many in the public sector, also pay a price - quite literally.
The first duty of a government is too look after their own citizens. The Prime Minister said he would protect society’s most vulnerable. What is taking place is exactly the opposite of protection. The lack of sustenance has led to a rise in health problems previously linked with Victorian Britain. More than 20 cases of rickets are diagnosed every year in Newcastle alone. Anaemia and skin disorders associated with a lack of nutrients are also rising. The Institute of Fiscal Studies warns that absolute child poverty is set to rise from 2013. David Cameron's hypocritical mantra, "we're all in it together," is given the lie by the contrast in living standards of the rich and poor.
Food parcels are associated with famine-struck parts of the world. Yet there is a "hidden hunger" in Britain. The idea of food parcels has echoes of Dickensian London or a famine-struck corner of the developing world, they are becoming more common in 21st Century Britain. The Trussell Trust charity, operates dozens of foodbanks across the country. It mainly helps people who are not receiving benefits they would normally be entitled to, but also sees many families who fall into financial difficulty after the main breadwinner loses work. The Trussell Trust is a charity which serves those on the brink of desperation.
One of the main reasons for people running out of food is because many have their benefits suspended while they are being re-assessed. The Department for Work and Pensions will say people's benefits are not stopped while a re-assessment is taking place. That is not true. Food parcels are increasingly helping people who are having their benefits stopped during reassessment. The DWP might say this only happens for three weeks or so, and what's the problem? But if you're living week to week then that's a long gap to cover when you're trying to feed yourself and a family.
The benefits agency says when families suddenly find themselves without money people can apply to the Social Fund for help, and that it does signpost people to Social Services and charities such as the Trussell Trust. People who change their circumstances need to tell the DWP as soon as possible, to ensure NO loss of benefit, but with government cut backs cutting jobs within Jobcentre plus – it looks certain claims will be delayed. Jobcentre Plus say they are able to cut staff and close offices now because more claimants are using the internet to claim, unemployment is falling and Universal Credit will introduce further scope for reductions. Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) has pointed out that these claims are unsupported by evidence and lack credibility.
Internet claiming is at a very early stage and no systems are yet in use to show that large-scale internet claiming and processing is even deliverable. Unemployment is not falling, last month the number claiming JSA went up. Many economic forecasters predict a double dip recession not an economic recovery. The lesson of the last recession is that unemployment can rise very fast.