Surge in food poverty in capital during Covid-19 pandemic must end

During Thursday’s Mayor’s Question Time (MQT) meeting, local London Assembly Member, Joanne McCartney AM, asked Sadiq Khan about what more can be done to address the “scandal” of food poverty in the capital amidst the Covid-19 outbreak.

Ms McCartney’s question came in the wake of Trussell Trust figures revealing an 81% increase in demand for emergency food parcels in the last two weeks of March. The same data also showed a 122% rise in the number of parcels provided to children.

The local Assembly Member praised the work of the Food Sub-Group of City Hall’s Strategic Coordination Group (SCG) in helping charities, foodbanks and local authorities with the supply and distribution of food supplies.

In response, the Mayor highlighted the urgent need for the Government to take action at a national level to address the underlying causes of food poverty. He recommended measures such as ending the five-week wait for initial Universal Credit payments, the abolition of the No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF) policy and the raising of Local Housing Allowance (LHA).

During Mayor’s Question Time, he also confirmed that he has now written to the Secretary of State for Education, calling on the Government to continue to extend its food voucher scheme for families whose children qualify for Free School Meals.

Ms McCartney also asked for the Mayor’s backing for a new Coronavirus Emergency Income Support Scheme. This has been called for by a  coalition of charities, including Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG), Children’s Society, Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF), StepChange and Turn2us, to ensure people facing financial hardship can access the resources they need to stay above the poverty line.

The Mayor said that it sounded like ‘a no-brainer’ to support these calls, but confirmed he will look into the proposals in more detail before publicly backing them.

Local London Assembly Member, Joanne McCartney AM, said:

“It is nothing short of a scandal that we have seen such a significant surge in food poverty amidst the Covid-19 outbreak. Tragically, we have seen this pandemic plunge some of the most vulnerable Londoners, many of them children, even further into hardship and poverty.

“I agree with the Mayor’s calls for the Government to tackle the underlying causes of food poverty and review many of the damaging reforms and changes they have made to the welfare system, which should be providing a reliable safety net for the most disadvantaged, particularly during these incredibly challenging times.

“Across the capital, charities, foodbanks and voluntary organisations should be praised for their vital and heroic work under very difficult circumstances, with City Hall has playing its part by helping to co-ordinate vital food supply networks.

“It is simply unsustainable for central Government to continue to outsource their duty of care to the most vulnerable to these groups. Right now, the Government could make a huge difference by implementing the Emergency Income Support Scheme being called for by an ever-growing chorus in the third sector”.