Increasing public outrage about food poverty is heaping pressure on George Osborne ahead of the autumn statement. The pressure comes as over 70,000 people signed a petition calling for a parliamentary debate on UK hunger and foodbank use, in just 24 hours.
Unite has accused the government of staying ‘silent while its policies fill hospital beds and swell foodbank demand’. They are calling on the chancellor to outline emergency measures in the autumn statement to tackle food poverty, including increasing the minimum wage by £1.50 and halting the callous cuts to social security.
The huge success of the petition highlights growing public outrage at food poverty, which is set to worsen, as 60 per cent of social security cuts - hitting those in and out of work – are yet to be implemented. In a sign of the mounting pressure on the chancellor, ahead of tomorrow’s economic statement, doctors have disclosed a disturbing rise in the number of malnutrition cases diagnosed at English hospitals, which are up from 3,161 in 2008/09 to 5,499 in 2012/13.
The petition was proposed by Jack Monroe, writer and former foodbank user, and has been supported by Unite, Britain’s biggest trade union, The Mirror and The Trussell Trust foodbank network.
Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: “The government cannot stay silent while its policies fill hospital beds and swell foodbank demand. The chancellor is presiding over a devastating increase in food poverty, which is having a scarring effect on our nation’s children, leaving 5,500 people in England suffering from malnutrition.
“The government should pay heed to the many thousands of people who have backed our petition, calling for proper scrutiny of rocketing UK hunger and foodbank use. The public is understandably outraged that families can’t afford to eat in the world’s seventh richest country.
“George Osborne’s brutal cuts to social security – 60 per cent of which are yet to be implemented - have resulted in crushing impoverishment for thousands of ordinary families, both in and out of work. They need to be halted immediately, while an inquiry into foodbank use is undertaken. It should be a source of national shame that 60,000 people will need to be fed by foodbanks this festive period, while the chancellor will be off enjoying a lavish Christmas.
“We know that many working people rely on foodbanks, so the government needs to take serious steps to tackle exploitative low pay. The best way of doing this would be to stand up in the autumn statement and announce a £1.50 increase in the minimum wage. As banker’s bonus season gets back in to full swing, the least this complacent government should be doing is tackling rip off pay.”
For further information contact James Bevan 07711 347 645.
Twitter: @unitetheunion Facebook: unitetheunion1
Notes to editors
Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey
Jack Monroe’s petition can be found at: http://www.change.org/foodbanks
More information on Unite’s Christmas Appeal.