“Food bank users in Devon reach a record high”

And remember – you can’t just turn up at a foid bank: you have to be referred by a doctor, social worker and the like. And many recipients are from working families.

“The number of people using food banks in Devon has hit a record high, and Universal Credit has been blamed for contributing to the problem.

Figures provided by the Trussell Trust, a charity that works to end the need for food banks in the UK, more than 24,000 emergency food parcels were issued to people in need across our county in 2018/19.

One in three of these food parcels, or 8,242, was for a child.

Campaigners say “enough is enough” and warned Universal Credit is adding to the huge numbers of people who don’t have enough money to “cover the basics” such as food. …”

https://www.devonlive.com/news/devon-news/food-bank-users-devon-reach-3422071

AveragecUK earnings increase 2p per hour in two years – top 1% earnings go up £7 per hour in same period

“The top 1% of high earners in the UK have enjoyed a 7.6% real terms pay increase over the last two years, while the average worker’s pay rose by just 2p an hour.

A TUC analysis of government hourly pay data between 2016 and 2018 shows thatpay among the very top earners increased at a faster rate than any other group.

People in the top bracket saw their pay increase by an average of 7.6% from £58.73 in 2016 to £63.18 in 2018, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS) annual survey of hours and earnings. Over the same period, the real terms pay of average workers rose by just 0.1% or 2p to from £12.71 to £12.73.

The TUC said that average pay in real terms, when adjusted for inflation, was still worth less in real terms than before the financial crisis continuing the biggest squeeze on wages since the end of the Napoleonic Wars.

Frances O’Grady, general secretary of the TUC, warned that the gap between the richest and everyone else will continue to widen under the prime minister, Boris Johnson’s planned tax cut for high earners, which will cost the Treasury £9.6bn a year, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS).

“While millions struggle with Britain’s cost of living crisis, pay for those at top is back in the fast lane,” O’Grady said. “We need an economy that works for everyone, not just the richest 1%. Boris Johnson’s promised tax giveaway to high earners would only make things worse. The prime minister is focused on helping his wealthy mates and donors, not working people.” …

https://www.theguardian.com/money/2019/oct/12/average-uk-earners-gained-just-2p-per-hour-in-two-years-tuc-reveals?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

“Sharp increase in families on brink of becoming homeless”

“The number of families at risk of becoming homeless has risen by more than 10 per cent as councils struggle to support people living in overcrowded accommodation or facing eviction.

In the first three months of this year 70,430 households were judged to be on the brink of being made homeless, up from 63,620 in the previous quarter, the latest figures showed.

Local authorities have placed 84,740 families and couples in temporary housing, including 126,020 children, the highest figure in a decade.

A report last month by Anne Longfield, the children’s commissioner for England, showed that thousands of children were living in converted shipping containers and office blocks after being classed as homeless.

Yesterday’s figures were published by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government a year after rules came into effect requiring councils to do more to prevent people from becoming homeless. It doubled to 56 days the period over which they must assess a person’s risk.

The most common reason for people becoming homeless, affecting 18,150 households, was family or friends no longer being willing to provide temporary shelter. The second most frequent cause was the termination of a shorthold tenancy by the landlord, which applied in 14,700 cases.

Kate Henderson, chief executive of the National Housing Federation, which represents housing associations, said more homes should be built for rent by people on low incomes rather than for better-off private buyers.

“It is unacceptable that the number of families living in temporary accommodation has been allowed to reach an eight-year high with no real action to tackle the root of the problem,” she said.

David Renard, the Local Government Association’s housing spokesman and Conservative leader of Swindon borough council, welcomed extra funds announced in the budget to support homeless people but said that long-term funding was needed.

“A lack of affordable housing has left many councils struggling to cope with a rising number of people coming to them for help and are having to place more families and households into temporary and emergency accommodation as a result,” he said.

Luke Hall, a housing minister, said the Homelessness Reduction Act, which came in last year, was “helping people earlier so they are not having to experience homelessness in the first place”. He said the latest figures showed that progress was being made. “There is still more to do, though, which is why we have committed a record investment to ending homelessness and rough sleeping for good.”

The government published a separate report which showed that the number of vulnerable people sleeping rough had fallen by one third.”

Source: Times (pay wall)

EDDC Tory councillor has plan to take people out of poverty

Overview will discuss Councillor Mike Allen’s report:

” … The report proposes that the East Devon District Council should have two basic aims – no one in East Devon is destitute without immediate help, and nobody is in poverty for more than two years duration.

To achieve this, the council should try and boost incomes and reduce relative housing costs, work with partners to deliver an effective benefit system, deliver actions with Business and Public Sector to improve education standards, raise skills and improve work placements, strengthen families and communities to help those at risk of poverty and promote long-term economic growth to reduce dependency on agriculture, tourism and catering industries, the report says. …”

https://www.devonlive.com/news/devon-news/action-plan-proposed-help-tackle-3237472

Owl just more than a bit annoyed that his party’s austerity cuts caused most of these problems in the first place! And that now, pre-general election, there seems to be a magic money tree after all … maybe.

School meals – a no-deal Brexit casualty?

“Legal school meal nutrition standards may need to be amended, or discarded, in the event of a no-deal Brexit, according to internal local council planning documents seen by the BBC.

The standards are designed to make sure school children are fed healthy food.

Many councils say school meal costs will rise and funding for free school meals increase if there is no-deal.

The government said the food industry was “well versed at dealing with scenarios that can affect food supply.”

“We have a highly-resilient food supply chain and consumers in the UK have access to a range of sources of food. This will continue to be the case when we leave the EU.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson insisted earlier on Monday that no-deal Brexit preparations are on track.

Some councils are anticipating they will not meet nutrition standards because of a rise in food prices and restriction of choice anticipated after a no-deal Brexit, particularly on fresh imports from Europe.

For example, North Ayrshire Council says it “might need to amend school nutrition standards”, in its internal Brexit planning document.

Local councils are legally obliged to provide high standard food to vulnerable users of public services and to manage the food supply challenges of leaving the EU without a deal.

Other councils, such as North Tyneside, report that “special dietary requirements may be difficult to meet” and that “if fresh produce is difficult to come by” schools should “increase use of tins and frozen goods”.

Many councils say that prices for school meals will rise, and central government funding for free school meals will have to increase.
Some also mention the possible use of food banks. Slough has contacted food banks in its area to check contingency plans for food shortages, and some Scottish councils have already increased funding for extra provision from food banks.

Bedford Council’s planning document from its internal Brexit planning team says care homes are “advised to hold four to six weeks supply of non-perishable foodstuffs”.

Hastings Council’s internal Brexit risk document even goes as far as saying: “There might be the need for rationing. The severity would depend on what was available and particularly the duration of any shortages.”

Insiders suggest this is a reference to the prevention of stockpiling, more than a return to wartime ration books.

The documents seen by the BBC date from the end of last year – up until last month – but predate the appointment of Boris Johnson as prime minister.
Most take at face value the government’s national assessment for March that there will be no impact of a no-deal Brexit on overall food supply, but there could be an impact on price and choice.

An October no-deal Brexit would come, however, at a time when the UK is particularly dependent on European imports for its fresh food, and when there is little to no excess warehousing space, unlike in March.

One catering industry veteran, Andy Jones, the chair of the Public Sector 100 Group of caterers, backed the councils: “Given a no-deal Brexit, they’re being very sensible. They’re being very cautious, and rightly so, we’re going into something that we don’t know about, we’re going to the unknown.
“If a no-deal Brexit happens, I feel that the supply chain long term will absolutely be under pressure. And that will affect the most vulnerable in society. …”

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-49397728

Workhouse Britain

Record number of patients admitted to hospital with malnutrition:
https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2019/08/17/record-number-patients-admitted-ae-malnutrition-amid-growing/

UK poverty of elderly worst in western Europe:
https://www.theguardian.com/society/2019/aug/18/elderly-poverty-risen-fivefold-since-80s-pensions?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

Children so poor they eat toilet paper:
https://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/1166986/children-starving-free-school-meals-cut-eating-loo-paper-rubbish

“East Devon District Council gives out £223,000 in emergency housing payments”

The average house price in East Devon is £295,208 (Zoopla).

“Nearly 400 people struggling with their housing costs had to be helped out by East Devon District Council last year, to the tune of £223,400.

A spokeswoman for East Devon District Council said:

“We have helped around 287 customers who claimed housing benefit and 93 customers who were in receipt of Universal Credit housing costs.

“All awards were made to customers in difficulties, whether it was due to the benefit cap, removal of the spare room subsidy, LHA restrictions, in debt, struggling on a low income due to the welfare reforms, or a combination of those mentioned and other circumstances too.

“The awards have been to single people, couples, single parents, families, working-age or pensioners, with or without disability.

“Each customer’s circumstances are looked at on an individual basis.”

The amount spent on Discretionary Housing Payments in East Devon has increased by 23 per cent since they were introduced in 2013-14.

Last year the amount paid out exceeded the Government allocation of funding by £19,000, meaning East Devon had to use money from its benefits budget.

The chief executive of Shelter, Polly Neate, has criticised the system.

“Discretionary Housing Payments are vital in many cases and can be the difference between people losing their home or not, but they shouldn’t be a replacement for a fit-for-purpose welfare system,” she said.

“These payments shouldn’t be needed in the first place – they’re simply a quick fix to structural problems,” she said.

“To solve the underlying crisis for good, the Government must commit to building 3.1 million social homes in the next 20 years, as well as making sure housing benefit is enough to actually cover rents.”

A DWP spokeswoman said the Government spent £23 billion a year helping people in the UK with their housing costs.”

https://www.sidmouthherald.co.uk/news/discretionary-housing-payments-in-east-devon-1-6212190