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Middle-class 'new hungry' are forced to claim benefits for first time

From Ocado deliveries to food-bank handouts: Middle-class ‘new hungry’ are being forced to claim benefits for the first time as Covid destroys jobs

  • Food charity claims emergence of ‘newly hungry’ group of middle-class workers
  • Group are mostly younger people with mortgages, cars and credit cards
  • They have suffered Covid-related job losses and gaps in social security system
  • Comes as Feeding Britain’s charity network report influx of service users

Food charities have warned of the emergence of a ‘newly hungry’ group of middle-class workers who have been forced into using food banks during the pandemic.

A report by a leading charity network said that its countrywide members were providing food support to an influx of middle-income families who were experiencing poverty ‘for the first time’.

The Feeding Britain network and Independent Food Aid Network described the group of people as ‘not previously concerned with putting food on the table’, and made up largely of ‘younger clients, with more couples without children, who were fully employed on a “middle income”.’

The ‘newly hungry’ were also said to be either property owners, mortgage payers or who rent privately, with more outgoings including credit cards and cars finance.

A report by a leading charity network said that its countrywide members were providing food support to an influx of middle-income families who were experiencing poverty ‘for the first time’

Alison Grainger of Hambleton Foodshare added she was struck by the ‘number of furloughed staff [who] were looking for food help. [Our area is ] reliant on hospitality and tourism. 80% of not very much from a low-paid job doesn’t stretch too far’.

The phenomenon came from the same briefing the described the increase in need for food banks since March as ‘truly staggering’. 

Coventry’s food bank, run by the Trussell Trust, saw a 95 per cent increase in food parcels given out overall, and a 106 per cent increase in food parcels given out to children in April compared to the previous year. 

The independently run Beaumont Leys Food Bank said they went from providing food to 40 families per week to 500 per week since the start of the lockdown in March.

The phenomenon came from the same briefing the described the increase in need for food banks since March as ‘truly staggering’, with some areas reporting a 400 per cent increase in demand

The report suggested that the rise had come from people falling through gaps in the social support system, an increased strain on families of dependents, and huge changes in the jobs market.

The London-based Independent Food Aid Network said people in St Albans were exposed to hunger while waiting for furlough payments, following redundancies, or when work had dried up for self-employed people. 

They added: ‘Many guests who were on precarious zero-hours contracts have lost their jobs due to the pandemic, and didn’t have access to the furlough scheme (or) many people falling through the gaps of the furlough scheme, unplanned redundancies being made, and limited access to a long waiting list for Universal Credit for a range of reasons.

The Black Country Food Bank, part of the network, said: ‘Things have become much more desperate, the problems have become bigger and more urgent, the calls have been more emotional and we have spoken to so many people who are so embarrassed to have had to use a food bank’.

The charity said they had heard new users repeating phrases such as ‘it’s the last resort’, ‘I didn’t know what else to do’, ‘I haven’t eaten in the last few days’, and ‘my kids are hungry and I don’t know what to do’ becoming more common every day.

It continued: ‘Unless the recommendations above are quickly put into action, we fear that already shockingly high levels of need for charitable food aid will continue to rise and will be with with our country for an unacceptably long period of time to come.’

Black Country Food Bank added that the government’s £20-a-week top-up of universal credit had been a ‘lifeline that people needed to keep their head above water’, but pulling it during winter would ‘plunge people in poverty into a much bleaker place’.

Feeding Britain called on ministers to commit to keeping the £20 top-up, and to extend it to more than a million people on legacy benefits who had been excluded from last April’s one-year increase. It urged MPs to hold a debate and vote on the issue in the next few weeks.

The Poverty Alliance today said: ‘The £20 increase has not meant that those in poverty have suddenly become better off, it has meant that they have been able to survive. Pulling this increase now would plunge people in poverty back into a much bleaker place.’

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