The independent London newspaper

Food bank campaigners warn Universal Credit strain is leaving children hungry

Families struggling to proviude meals during summer holidays

08 August, 2019 — By Helen Chapman

CAMPAIGNERS at a food bank staged a demonstration as they warned that families are struggling to feed their children during the school holidays.

Placards were held up in Lancing Street, Euston, on Thursday, with organisers hoping that their protest would highlight how people need more help to get by.

Gareth Murphy, Unite Community Camden branch secretary, said: “Holiday hunger is a massive problem. Last year in Camden, 5,421 children were on free school meals. When the holidays are on, these families will come under extra pressure. We want families to know the food bank is here.”

The summer holidays can be an extra strain on families because their children do not eat a free school meal at lunch. Food bank volunteers are concerned that Universal Credit has left families in Camden struggling.

The new system, which was introduced in November, wraps six benefits into one.

But it involves a five-week wait before the first payment, and the council has estimated that thousands will be worse off under the new system after it has been fully implemented.

“It’s been every bit as bad as we predicted,” said Dorothea Hackman from Euston Foodbank, which is run by the Trussell Trust. “Last financial year saw 6,000 people use Euston Foodbank – a 30 per cent increase from the year before. “The majority of people are on low incomes. As it is, we are having to buy food in every week.”

Unite were joined by campaign groups the English Collective of Prostitutes, WinVisible and Support Not Separation, who are all based at the Crossroads Women’s Centre in Kentish Town. Cari Mitchell, from the English Collective of Prostitutes, said: “Universal Credit is outrageous. We know from our own experience and network that more mothers are going into sex work so they have money for food. Some 88 per cent of sex workers are women and most are ­single mothers.”

Claire Glasman

Claire Glasman, from disability campaign group WinVisible, said: “Children are going hungry and mums are skipping meals so they can feed their children. “We want to highlight the impact of Universal Credit on disabled single mothers who lose out the most out of anyone on Universal Credit, due to the loss of the disability premium. Thousands of pounds have been lost.”

A government spokes­man said: “Universal Credit is helping people to improve their lives through work, and support is available to those who need it from day one of their claim. “There are more people in work than ever before and wages ­con­tinue to outstrip inflation, but we recognise that some families need more support.”

He added: “That’s why we’re investing £9million in free summer holiday clubs and continuing to spend £95billion a year on working age welfare to support families.”

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