UK faces economic collapse by Christmas

UK’s largest food bank chain has warned that poverty levels in the UK will double by Christmas, as demand for charitable food parcels skyrockets as coronavirus services and income support schemes are shutting down.

UK faces economic collapse by Christmas

The Trussell Trust predicts that at least 670,000 extra people will become destitute in the last three months of the year – a level of poverty that leaves them unable to meet basic food, shelter or clothing needs – if the government withdraws Covid support for low-income households.

Despite unprecedented demand for charity food since lockdown – 100,000 people used food banks for the first time between April and June – the trust said ending furlough in October would trigger a rise in food bank use of at least 61% – equivalent to a year-on-year increase of 300,000 parcels.

“Our research finds that Covid-19 has led to tens of thousands of new people needing to use a food bank for the first time. This is not right. If we don’t take action now, there will be further catastrophic rises in poverty in the future,” said Emma Revie, the chief executive of the Trussell Trust.

The trust said the impact of rising unemployment on low-income families after the planned winding down of the job retention scheme raised the prospect of a significant “reshaping of the landscape of poverty, destitution and food insecurity in this country”.

Its forecasts come amid rising concern among poverty analysts and campaigners about the dire consequences of an abrupt withdrawal of furlough at the end of October, together with a failure to retain the temporary £20 a week increase in universal credit and tax credit rates due to end next April.

The trust said withdrawing the £20 a week rise, which would leave millions of people £1,040 a year worse off overnight, would increase food bank use by 10%. This follows estimates by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, which said last week removal of the uplift would pull 700,000 more people into poverty.

Although the trust welcomed the £9bn Covid welfare package provided by the government since March, it said rising food bank use indicated this was not enough to support people in crisis – 43% of people referred to food banks in April had an income that was “not at a level to sustain a minimum quality of life”.