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Charity food banks in Britain are preparing for the worst as the government begins to unwind emergency relief measures taken to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on millions of workers and low-income households.
Most important points:
Brits face a triple blow as pandemic benefits end and heating costs rise as winter approaches
Food banks face donation shortages and expect a surge in demand when emergency aid payments stop
Developed Countries End Their Pandemic Aid Programs; the US in September, Australia and Canada coming soon
An additional weekly payment of £20 ($37.30) to support the country’s poorest families will be cut next month, and more than a million workers face an uncertain future as Britain becomes the first major economies to be Stop COVID-19 job support program.
Food banks – which distribute basic goods from dried pasta to baby food – are particularly concerned about the loss of the Universal Credit (UC) supplement, claimed by nearly 6 million people, according to official statistics.
“You’re going to have parents who go without food so their kids can eat,” said Garry Lemon, policy and research director at the Trussell Trust, which supports more than 1,200 food bank centers across Britain.
The UK’s move comes as other countries begin to wrap up state aid programs announced last year as COVID-19 ravaged economies around the world.
In the United States, pandemic unemployment benefits expired in early September, a month after a moratorium on evictions expired.
Australia and Canada have also announced plans to end income subsidies in the near future.
A UK government spokesman said the benefit had always been intended to be temporary and had been effective, adding that the focus was now on helping people get back to work.
‘The only bill you can change is your food bill’
However, anti-poverty groups said the loss of benefits would be a serious blow to low-income Britons.
It’s also because rising gas prices are driving higher domestic utility bills, with the average household expected to pay £139 more ($259.50) each year.
She said her family was behind on paying bills due to the financial strains of the pandemic and that the austerity measures would hit them hard.
“The only bill you can change from week to week is your food bill,” said Emma, who shares her experience with the Covid Realities research project tracking the impact of the pandemic on low-income parents and carers.
Emma said she went to a food bank every few months, aiming to minimize visits so as not to rob anyone in an even worse position.
“It’s getting more regular” [now]”It makes me so upset because it’s something we never thought we’d have to do,” Emma said.
Choosing between meals and heat
Nationally, more than 800,000 people will be driven into poverty by the cut in benefits, according to the British think tank, the Legatum Institute.
A survey of more than 2,000 people for the Trussell Trust found that a fifth of benefit claimants said they would “very likely” have to skip meals once the bonus payment was withdrawn.
A similar number said they would struggle to heat their homes.
“Independent food banks are bracing for a surge in demand, as well as the challenges of food shortages and a reduction in donations,” said Sabine Goodwin, the coordinator of the Independent Food Aid Network.
At Moray Food Plus, a food bank in Scotland, Mairi McCallum said they were already running “at nearly full capacity”.
“There’s only so much more we can do,” he said.
At an east London food bank – where a flood of visitors arrived to pick up bags of supplies for the store cupboard – organizers have already had to limit the total lifetime number of visits to 12 per household.
“We’re always getting new customers,” said Jemima Hindmarch, a spokesperson for The Bow Foodbank, adding that they’re “constantly” concerned about having adequate supplies.
The impact of the cut in benefits and rising heating costs during the winter months is likely to be “catastrophic” for people already struggling to cope, she said.
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