Income and affordability of food

We recognise that, at their core, many of the issues to do with hunger in the UK come down to the issue of money – people need enough money in their pockets to be able to buy good quality, nutritious food in ways that respect their dignity.

We are focussing on two issues that we feel are key to making sure this is the case for everyone.

1. Wages and contracts

Based on the recommendations in the APPG on Hunger reports, we are keeping a watching brief on the adoption of the real living wage by employers, and on the impact of zero hour contracts.

2. Measuring household insecurity

Currently, there is no proper national measure of hunger or food insecurity in the UK. Having accurate data on this would mean the issue is recognised, and can be properly addressed through government policies based on reliable evidence. We are therefore calling for an annual national measure on household food insecurity.

Feeding Britain’s trustee,Emma Lewell-Buck MP, is putting forward a private members bill calling for the introduction of this measure. We are encouraging MPs from all parties to support the bill. For more information on the campaign for the Bill please go here.

We have also shared evidence to the Office for National Statistics consultations on measurement against the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Acting on the data

Measuring the problem is only the first step. Once a national measurement of household food insecurity is introduced, we will focus on monitoring the analysis and action that is taken at national level as a result, to ensure that the data translates into meaningful policies to prevent people going hungry.

Living Wage and Income

APPG Recommendation

We encourage the Government to continue to pursue policies which seek to raise the National Minimum Wage, increase take-up of the Living Wage, and to reduce the total amount of tax taken from low-paid workers. (Feeding Britain report, Dec 2014)

Progress to Date In progress

The Government increased the National Living Wage to £7.83 in April 2018 for over 25s and the National Minimum Wage to £7.38 for people aged 21-24. The personal allowance has also been increased in the tax year 2018/2019 to £11,850. However, ONS figures suggest that 6.2 million jobs (23% of all employee jobs) are paid below the Living Wage as calculated by the Living Wage Foundation. This is currently set at £8.75 across the UK and £10.20 in London.

Sector based approaches

APPG Recommendation

The Low Pay Commission should also be granted additional powers to work with those sectors of the economy in which the immediate implementation of a Living Wage would lead to the highest threat of unemployment, such as social care and retail, in order to draw up interim packages – including product discounts and incremental pay increases – so as to provide a ‘Roadmap to the Living Wage’ for each of these sectors. (Feeding Britain report, Dec 2014)

We recommend that the Low Pay Commission be empowered to set reference minimum wage rates in each sector of the economy, leaving in place the National Minimum Wage, and for these powers to be used immediately to encourage higher minimum wages in sectors of the economy that can most easily afford them, such as finance and banking. These higher minimum wages should be set at the level of a Living Wage, and should apply to all directly employed, outsourced and agency staff performing functions with these sectors. (Feeding Britain report, Dec 2014)

We also believe that the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills should work with sector interests on a strategy to raise productivity and thereby enable the higher minimum wage, or Living Wage, to be implemented without a loss of jobs. (Feeding Britain report, Dec 2014)

Progress to Date In progress

The Government has accepted the majority of recommendations in the Taylor review to protect the lowest paid workers. The Government has accepted the Taylor report recommendation that the emphasis in the Industrial Strategy and sector deals should be linked to the importance of ‘human factors in driving productivity and enabling more rewarding working lives. We await the outcome of consultations on how this is to be put into practice.

Government departments’ pay

APPG Recommendation

Every Government department should pay a minimum hourly rate equivalent to the Living Wage to all staff – directly employed, outsourced and agency workers – and write a clause into major public contracts which would look favourably upon those bidders paying at least a Living Wage to all of their staff. (6 months on)

The Cabinet Office should require each government department to become a Living Wage Employer by paying its own employees a Living Wage (as defined by the Living Wage Foundation) and extending this commitment to agency, outsourced and contract workers (Route Map, Dec 2015)

Progress to Date Pending

This recommendation has yet to be enacted. Data shows that there remain workers employed by government departments who are paid below the Living Wage, as calculated by the Living Wage Foundation.

In 2017, in response to Parliamentary Questions submitted by the APPG on Hunger to all Government Departments, it appears that at least 3000 workers are paid less than the Living Wage, and at least 100 workers are on zero-hours contracts. The actual figures are likely to be higher, as some departments did not provide a direct answer or hold data on outsourced employees.

APPG Recommendation

We recommend that Local Authorities, beyond and including paying their own employees a Living Wage, should use their procurement strategies to encourage local businesses to themselves become Living Wage employers. (Feeding Britain report, Dec 2014)

Progress to Date In progress

Some local authorities have led the way on this front and we encourage others to follow their lead. At this point there is no national data. As a sample, Feeding Britain is seeking data from Local Authorities within our pilots areas to identify how many have become Living Wage employers.

APPG Recommendation

We recommend that the Government consults broadly on whether further legislative action is required to protect the wellbeing of those people who are employed on a zero-hours contract and wish to work more hours than they are being offered by their employer (Route Map, Dec 2015)

Progress to Date In progress

This recommendation has been addressed in the Taylor Review. The govt has accepted that in principle workers on zero hour contracts should receive a ‘wage premium’, and have asked the Low Pay Commission to advise on how this could be implemented. All zero hour workers will also have the right to request a more formal contract from their employers.

Measuring hunger

APPG Recommendation

We recommend the establishment of a single Office for Living Standards within the Treasury to monitor pressures on low-income households’ budgets and for the Cabinet Office to co-ordinate effective responses from government. It should be tasked with reporting regularly to Parliament, and to Feeding Britain, on its monitoring of the implementation of the recommendations set out in this report. The Treasury should then commit to an annual Parliamentary debate on the level of progress made in this field. (Feeding Britain report, Dec 2014)

Progress to Date Pending

The Government has rejected this recommendation, stating that living standards are already monitored within the Treasury.

APPG Recommendation

The APPG group has written to the UK Statistics Authority to request they decide what data needs to be collected, and by whom, in order to have a more accurate picture of the extent of hunger in today’s Britain. The main requests put to the UKSA were how to best define and measure hunger in the UK, to ask all food banks to complete a common questionnaire approved by UKSA, what official data might be used to suggest how many households are consistently on the verge of hunger, how helpful a contribution might be made by data on the extent of anaemia and malnutrition and whether there is robust enough data to suggest shorter, obese children are disproportionately likely to be poor. (Not so hidden hunger, April 2016)

Progress to Date In progress

The UK Statistics Authority in 2017 launched a consultation on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The purpose of the consultation is to seek views on the ONS’s approach to the measurement and reporting of UK progress against the global indicators that underpin the SDGs. Feeding Britain and the APPG contributed evidence to this consultation. The response to the consultation does not provide for a direct measure of hunger or food insecurity in the UK.

Emma Lewell-Buck MP presented a Bill to the House of Commons in 2017 to construct a statutory measurement of the extent of hunger and malnutritionin the country. The Bill was scheduled for its second reading in February 2018, but the session ran out of time and the Bill was not called. The second reading has been postponed to October 2018.

APPG Recommendation

We propose that the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) should consider incorporating questions from the Food Insecurity Experience Scale (FIES) or something similar, into its annual Family Food Survey. (Not so hidden hunger, April 2016)

Progress to Date In progress

See above

APPG Recommendation

A second equally helpful option would be for Public Health England to act similarly through its annual National Diet and Nutrition Survey, or to commission an additional one-off survey focusing on the nation’s vulnerability to hunger. (Not so hidden hunger, April 2016)

Progress to Date In progress

See above

APPG Recommendation

We propose that officials from EFRA and Public Health England should hold immediate discussions with the UKSA on whether, and how, they might best deploy FIES, or a similar set of questions, to begin measuring the extent of hunger in our country. (Not so hidden hunger, April 2016)

Progress to Date In progress

See above

APPG Recommendation

We recommend that DEFRA, in partnership with the Department of Health, allocates a small sum of money from its research budget to monitoring vulnerability to hunger in the UK (Route Map, Dec 2015)

Progress to Date In progress

See above

APPG Recommendation

We recommend that the Department for Education, with help from the Troubled Families programme, beings collecting data on the numbers of children who begin the school day hungry, and the reasons why (Route Map, Dec 2015)

Progress to Date In progress

See above

APPG Recommendation

We have written to Ofsted asking whether it has detected a raising of the threshold set by local authorities to determine whether a child is ‘in need’. And if so, whether there are any particular trends beginning to emerge on this front. (Not so hidden hunger, April 2016)

We have also asked Ofsted whether it might consider collecting reports from school staff on the numbers of pupils consistently arriving hungry, and the reasons why. (Not so hidden hunger, April 2016)

Progress to Date In progress

Ofsted have responded confirming that they are currently undertaking a universal inspection programmes of local authorities, looking at services for children in need of help and protection, looked after children and care leavers, as well as reviews of local safeguarding children boards. As part of this inspection they always evaluate and report on the key thresholds. A survey has been conducted by the National Union of Teachers, which fed into the Hungry Holiday report.

APPG Recommendation

The measurement of hunger amongst children during school holidays. Following our most recent report published a year ago, the UKSA announced it would consult on how best to measure how many people in our country are hungry, or vulnerable to experiencing hunger. That consultation was due to have been launched several months ago, however, it remains elusive. We recommend that it be opened as soon as possible and that it should set the country on a path towards being able to measure the extent of hunger amongst children during school holidays. (Hungry Holidays, April 2017)

Progress to Date In progress

See above

Recording food provision

APPG Recommendation

We recommend that emergency food assistance providers amend their referral categories to differentiate more clearly between the various benefit-related problems they encounter; this should include delays in the processing of a new or existing claim, sanctions, changes in entitlement, loss of benefit during a Mandatory Reconsideration period, being made to transfer from one benefit to another, and payments made to cover debt owed on previous overpayments or Crisis Loans. (Feeding Britain report)

All food banks, however small, should consider whether they are collecting effective data about why individual users are being referred to them, and how this might be published in order toimprove the evidence base about the underlying causes of hunger. (6 months on)

Progress to Date Pending

Despite some excellent examples of analysis at local level, this recommendation has yet to be enacted nationally. As well as food banks, we recognise the importance of gathering data from a wider range of emergency food projects, and are exploring ways that this could be done.

APPG Recommendation

We warmly welcome the news that the Trussell Trust’s data system is beginning to capture the number of unique food bank users on a national scale. The publication of this data would mark a hugely important step forward. We recommend that the Trussell Trust includes this data within its next annual publication. We reiterate our call to the Trussell Trust to include within its data collection method and database a way of breaking down in detail the different benefit-related problems, and other factors, which have resulted in people being referred to a Trussell Trust food bank. We call on independent food banks to do likewise. (Route Map, April 2016)

Progress to Date In progress

The Trussell Trust has continued to publish figures on an annual basis. In addition, useful in-depth research has been conducted by Trussell Trust and Oxford University on food bank usage and key drivers including sanctions, Universal Credit and disability. We also welcome the recent mapping conducted by the Independent Food Aid Network (IFAN) on the extent of independent food aid providers in the UK begins to fill in some of the gaps in overall provision. An important next step would be to begin to understand the numbers of people using these independent services. Feeding Britain is piloting a data collection system which will record in some detail the reasons for people attending emergency food projects in our pilot areas.

APPG Recommendation

We recommend that each Citizens Advice Bureau conducts an annual survey of its food voucher allocations, and the reasons behind each allocation (Route Map, April 2016)

Progress to Date In progress

As far as we are aware, this data is not available on a national level. The APPG welcomes the analysis provided at local level by CAB branches, including notably Coventry and Cheshire West. We welcome additional data from other branches collecting similar information.

APPG Recommendation

We recommend that each Archbishop and Bishop in the UK attempts to compile data from within their own Dioceses on the number of food banks run by the Trussell Trust, the number that are run on an independent basis, the number of other charitable providers of food, and the numbers of people relying on their assistance (Route Map, April 2016)

Progress to Date In progress

First attempts have been made for this and the initial results are included in the Not So Hidden Hunger report.