SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – The Trussell Trust warned it is expecting its busiest Christmas ever in providing emergency rations – with one million people now relying on food banks run by the charity and other organisations. Many more are expected to get into debt to fund the cost of the festive season.
UK Charities warned that the spending figures disguise another Britain, in which families have so little they are unable to afford basics such as food, heating and housing costs. As 2014 draws to a close there are 13 million people in poverty – including 27 per cent of the 2.5 million children in the UK, according to the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG).
Inequality in the UK is now so extreme that the five richest families are wealthier than the bottom 20 per cent of the entire population, according to Oxfam.
Meanwhile, the housing charity Shelter predicts that 93,000 children will be homeless this Christmas, as the number of homeless families trapped in temporary or emergency accommodation exceeds 60,000.
“This is a real, stark two-nations Britain that we are talking about,” said Trussell Trust chair Chris Mould. “At Christmas time, when people will be spending more than they have ever done before, we have also tens of thousands of people who haven’t got enough to buy food for themselves and families.
“It’s not a tolerable situation. It’s got to be taken seriously. There is a consensus across the country that we can’t just accept this. We’ve got to take action.”
Rachael Orr, head of UK programmes at Oxfam, said: “This isn’t just about the politics of envy. Inequality isn’t just bad in terms of the impact that it has on the poorest people, but it’s bad for growth. It can undermine a nation’s ability to grow and be strong.”
“Clobbered by low wages, soaring housing costs and real terms cuts in benefits, these households have taken the biggest austerity cuts and don’t have a margin for festive extras.” Figures from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation show that one in five of working-age adults without children were also living in poverty. Real wages are also falling: among the lowest paid 25 per cent, pay has fallen by 40p an hour for women and 70p an hour for men.
Julia Unwin, chief executive of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, said the contrast between spending and need highlighted the “changing face of poverty” in the UK.
“The biggest group of people who are poor are in work and renting. That gives us a new insecurity in this country. That means that there are large numbers of people who are just not able to benefit from economic recovery. That’s dangerous for those households and it’s dangerous for the whole economy.”