27 church leaders, including a number of Anglican bishops, have slammed coalition benefit cuts and “punitive” sanctions in an unprecedented attack on the government’s welfare policies.
In a letter to the Daily Mirror, the church leaders warn that “one in five mothers report regularly skipping meals to better feed their children” and others are having to face the unenviable decision between eating and heating as “food prices have gone up 30% in just five years”.
The church leaders argue that half a million people are having to turn to food banks to feed themselves as their families, and that it was time for society to “face up to the fact that over half of people using food banks have been put in that situation by cut backs and failures in the benefit system”.
According to the signatories of the letter “5,500 people were admitted to hospital in the UK for malnutrition last year”.
They say that there is a “moral imperative” for society and the coalition government to act on food poverty and take immediate action to “make sure that work pays, and to ensure that the welfare system provides a robust last line of defence against hunger”.
The letter sent to the Daily Mirror reads as follows:
“Britain is the world’s seventh largest economy and yet people are going hungry.
“Half a million people have visited food banks in the UK since last Easter and 5,500 people were admitted to hospital in the UK for malnutrition last year.
“One in five mothers report regularly skipping meals to better feed their children, and even more families are just one unexpected bill away from waking up with empty cupboards.
“We often hear talk of hard choices. Surely few can be harder than that faced by the tens of thousands of older people who must “heat or eat” each winter, harder than those faced by families whose wages have stayed flat while food prices have gone up 30% in just five years.
“Yet beyond even this we must, as a society, face up to the fact that over half of people using food banks have been put in that situation by cut backs to and failures in the benefit system, whether it be payment delays or punitive sanctions.
“On March 5th Lent will begin. The Christian tradition has long been at this time to fast, and by doing so draw closer to our neighbour and closer to God.
“On March 5th we will begin a time of fasting while half a million regularly go hungry in Britain. We urge those of all faith and none, people of good conscience, to join with us.
“There is an acute moral imperative to act. Hundreds of thousands of people are doing so already, as they set up and support food banks across the UK. But this is a national crisis, and one we must rise to.
“We call on government to do its part: acting to investigate food markets that are failing, to make sure that work pays, and to ensure that the welfare system provides a robust last line of defence against hunger.”
Source – Welfare News Service, 19 Feb 2014