Thank you for contacting me about the Trussell Trust report on food bank usage and Universal Credit.
Although I do not want anyone to have to rely on a food bank, I am grateful to all those who volunteer their time to make sure they are provided in their local communities.
I know that the Government is committed to understanding and addressing poverty, which is why it has published official estimates of food security for the first time. According to the latest Government statistics - published in the Family Resources Survey - most households in the UK were food secure in the financial year 2021-22. The vast majority of households, 88 per cent, had high household food security, meaning that they had no problem, or anxiety about consistently accessing adequate food.
While I note your concerns about food security, I am confident that the Government is providing substantial support through the welfare system. It will spend around £276 billion through social security in Great Britain in 2023/24, including around £124 billion on people of working age and children. Following the Government’s uprating exercise, benefits and the state pension have been increased by 10.1 per cent in April 2023, providing significant support with the cost of living to the most vulnerable. Uprating is in addition to the planned increase in the National Living Wage to £11.44 an hour and the provision of more than £11 billion in cost-of-living payments.
Moreover, the Government is continuing to ensure the provision of free school meals for infants, as well as benefits-related free school meals, which are helping two million children. The Government is also investing over £200 million per year through the Holiday Activities and Food programme, which supports disadvantaged children and their families, including by providing them with healthy food. The programme takes place across England and reached over 685,000 children during last year’s summer holidays, of which 475,000 children were receiving benefits-related free school meals.
The Government will continue to do everything it can to help those on low pay, and I welcome that the number of those living in poverty today has fallen by two million since 2010.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.
Craig Whittaker MP