Petition Make access to food a legal right - no one in the UK should go hungry
Putting the “Right to Food” into UK law would make the Government legally responsible to help anyone in our communities who in going hungry, to take action to prevent barriers in accessing food and to take steps to tackle the crisis of food insecurity in the UK which is effecting 10 million people.
We currently lack a legal mechanism for enforcing the basic right to food. Legislation enshrining this right would set out tasks and responsibilities for the wide range of public bodies that would need to take action to ensure everyone has access to essential foodstuffs. This could include requiring measures to improve people's incomes (such as requiring a Living Wage), control everyday costs (such as utility bills), and improve access to good food (such as free school meals).
This response was given on 1 March 2021
Tackling poverty in all forms is a key priority for this Government. We have provided an unprecedented level of support over the past year to protect the most vulnerable through the COVID-19 pandemic.
This Government is committed to supporting people on lower incomes, paying out over £100 billion in welfare support for people of working age this year, and consistently supporting the lowest-paid families including through increasing the living wage. Even before COVID-19, we increased working age benefits by 1.7% and overall benefit spending by around £5 billion in 2020/21.
Throughout this pandemic we have taken unprecedented action backed by £280 billion to support and protect jobs and incomes, including through the furlough scheme, extended until April 2021, and provided over £7 billion to strengthen welfare support, ensuring the most vulnerable can meet their basic needs. This support includes increases to the Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit standard allowances of up to £1040 this financial year, and uplifts to the Local Housing Allowance rates to cover the lowest 30% of market rents.
HM Treasury published distributional analysis (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/impact-of-covid-19-on-working-household-incomes-distributional-analysis-as-of-may-2020) of COVID-19’s impact on working households in July, showing the actions this Government had taken to date have supported poorest working households the most, with those in the bottom 10% of the income distribution seeing no income reduction.
The COVID-19 Winter Grant Scheme provides £170 million for local authorities (LAs) in England to support families with children and other vulnerable people with the cost of food and essential utilities. This builds on the £63 million allocated to English LAs last Summer. Devolved Administrations received equivalent funding through the upfront funding guarantee provided, which was increased to £16 billion for the year to support their COVID-19 response. We have also made available £16 million to the food redistributor FareShare to work with local charities across England to provide food for those struggling due to the immediate impacts of COVID-19.
The Holiday Activities and Food (HAF) programme has provided healthy food and enriching activities to disadvantaged children since 2018, and is being expanded across England to cover Easter, Summer and Christmas in 2021. Healthy Start scheme payments are also set to increase from £3.10 to £4.25 a week from April 2021. This scheme supports pregnant women or those with children under four who have a low income and are in receipt of benefits to buy fresh fruit and vegetables.
From 18 January, schools can order free school meal vouchers for eligible pupils through the Government’s national scheme, adding to support available for disadvantaged families during the national lockdown. An online service allows schools to place orders for supermarket gift cards on behalf of parents and carers whose children are eligible for free school meals. The scheme supplier Edenred reported that by the end of 25 February, 106,500 orders had been placed by schools and more than £77 million eCodes had been redeemed into supermarket gift cards for families.
The Government champions the principle of work as the best route out of poverty and towards financial independence. Plans to get parents back to work and supporting them to progress are at the heart of the approach to tackle poverty and level up across the UK. We are investing billions in our new Plan for Jobs including our £2 billion Kickstart scheme which creates thousands of jobs for young people, and our £2.9 billion Restart programme to provide intensive employment support for over 1 million unemployed people. We have also boosted our Flexible Support Fund by £150 million to provide localised, tailored support across the UK and are doubling the number of frontline Work Coaches to help people find work, re-train, or gain practical experience.
We have commissioned an independent review of the food system, led by Henry Dimbleby, which will inform the Government’s upcoming Food Strategy White Paper. Part 1 of the independent report, published on 29 July 2020, contained recommendations in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and preceding the end of the transition period. Several of these recommendations were aimed to address food insecurity, including the expansion of the HAF programme and increasing the value of the Healthy Start vouchers, which the Government has already acted on.
Part Two of the independent review will be published later this year. It will include a root and branch examination of the food system and the economics that shape it, and contain further recommendations for the Government to consider.
We have taken steps to ensure people have access to healthy and nutritious food. In July 2020, the Government released its Obesity strategy, announcing policies to empower people to make healthier choices and give the full support of the NHS to people who are overweight and want to lose weight. In addition, the Eatwell Guide provides a visual representation of the Government’s recommendations on a healthy balanced diet.
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
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