More UK workers struggle to feed children amid cost-of-living crisis

2023-02-02 15:59:02
More UK workers struggle to feed children amid cost-of-living crisis

Britain, one of the world’s richest countries, among the most shocking signs of the cost-of-living crisis is that a growing number of workers are struggling to feed their children.

Some are heading to food banks for the first time.

“It’s atrocious that it’s working people who are coming to us,” said Vicky Longbone, a church minister who runs a food bank in Derby, in central England.

For the hardest-hit working families, the crisis has been long in the making. Employment growth has left Britain with fewer out-of-work households, but many of those who found work still did not reach a decent standard of living, which left them vulnerable when inflation hit a 41-year high a few months ago, and wages failed to keep up.

Austerity measures under a decade of Conservative-led governments have also eaten away at the benefits paid to many low-income families, including working households. Since 2016, Britain has had one of the highest minimum wages in the world for most workers, benefiting some of the lowest earners. But many of them still cannot find enough hours of work, and the income of low earners has grown more slowly in Britain than in some other Western countries, including Germany and France.

“It is harder because the past 10 years have been so awful,” said Dr Greg Thwaites, an economist at the Resolution Foundation, an independent research institute focused on living standards.

Then, in October, consumer prices surged 11.1 per cent from a year earlier. With energy and food costs driving the inflation, lower-income families, who spend a larger share of their income on essentials, were disproportionately hit. The rises slowed slightly in December, but consumer prices were still up more than 10 per cent compared with a year earlier.

Although some key statistics are not yet available, including the latest annual figure for child poverty, there are clear signs that many workers, including working parents, are under serious strain, as well as growing evidence that children are going hungry at home.

Low-income Londoners were the worst affected by the cost-of-living crisis, according to an analysis by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, a British research institute, with added pressure from ever-higher rents. But the crisis has struck far beyond the capital, with Scotland and the north of England also hard-hit.

Recently, Alicia Marcano, 46, a nurse, headed for the first time into a food bank in Hackney, east London. She listened carefully to volunteers’ instructions, then, with her eyes downcast, started packing up cans of beans, biscuits and pasta. “This is new ground for me,” she said.

Source: New York Times


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