Harsh choices for UK families below the breadline

Harsh choices for UK families below the breadline

The use of food banks in the UK rose dramatically in 2013/14, a report published on 9 June revealed. A gripping documentary shown on the same day focused on the experience of children living on or below the breadline.

Over twenty million meals were provided to people in people in food poverty that year, according to ‘Below the Breadline: The relentless rise of food poverty in Britain’. This is a 54 per cent increase from last year.

The report, published by Oxfam GB, Church Action on Poverty and the Trussell Trust, gives facts and the figures on the scale of the problem and the causes. There are also quotes from some of those who are struggling to pay even for basics.

In Channel 4’s Dispatches documentary ‘Breadline Kids’, young people themselves describe their experiences and feelings. Their hopefulness, and the bonds of love and care in families and communities facing the most grim situations, are impressive.

But their plight is appalling, as are the lengths to which parents and grandparents may be driven to protect the children they look after.

The programme also shows how even people in work can end up without money for basics such as food and fuel, and how poverty can add to the suffering faced by those who are seriously ill and by their families.

Successive governments have been harsh in their treatment of the poorest in society, and poverty – including among children – is likely to get worse. Meanwhile tax has been repeatedly cut for the rich and wealthy corporations, and loopholes left open.

Yet many people are still in denial about what has been happening, labelling the badly-off as ‘cheats’ or ‘scroungers’ or regarding food poverty as an inevitable result of the economic downturn.

The report and documentary may persuade some of these to rethink their atttitude, and also to recognise that almost anyone, however responsible and hardworking, can end up in need.

* ‘Below the Breadline: The relentless rise of food poverty in Britain’ is available on http://policy-practice.oxfam.org.uk/publications/below-the-breadline-the....

* ‘Breadline Kids’ is available on http://www.channel4.com/programmes/dispatches/4od
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© Savitri Hensman is a widely published Christian commentator on politics, welfare, religion and more. An Ekklesia associate, she works in the equalities and care sector.

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