82 per cent of people believe the national minimum wage should be raised to tackle food poverty, with around three quarters blaming the increase in food bank use on rising living costs and food prices according to a new YouGov poll for Britain’s largest union, Unite.
The findings prompted Unite to call for an immediate increase in the minimum wage to tackle the growing cost of living crisis. The call comes as parliament debates the rise in food banks today (Wednesday 18 December) after more than 141,000 people backed the campaign for an inquiry into their growing prominence in UK life.
Support to boost the minimum wage comes from across the political spectrum, according to the poll, with three in four of those intending to vote Conservative at the next election backing a rise, along with nearly three quarters (74 per cent) of Ukip voters and 92 per cent of potential Labour and Lib Dem voters.
In a sign that people believe the situation may worsen nearly eight in 10 (78 per cent) say the growth in foodbanks is likely to continue in the next year and 65 per cent expressed concern about people’s reliance on them.
Around only one in six (17 per cent) thought the government had dealt with the issue of food poverty at all well, with 59 per cent critical of the government’s handling of food poverty.
Speaking ahead of today’s House of Commons debate, Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: “The rise of food bank use in the UK is the surest sign that this government’s austerity programme and cost of living crisis is causing genuine human misery. The so called recovery is passing ordinary people by as this government sets the people of this country on a path to poverty.
“It is now high time Britain got a pay rise. Raising the minimum wage by £1.50 will put food on tables and cut the social security bill by £5 billion. As this poll shows, it would be politically popular and is a no brainer.
“For the first time we see more in-work poverty than out-of-work poverty. Low wage, high cost Britain has been created by this government. It is wholly wrong to expect charity alone to fill in the holes that Osborne and Cameron have punched in social provision.
“The social consequences of the government’s addiction to austerity is seen in the kids that come to school starving and the patients presenting in GPs’ surgeries with signs of malnutrition. It’s a crisis which will be felt for generations to come.
“This is the seventh richest nation on the planet but there could be as many as one and a half million people depending on food banks to get by this year – that is one and a half times the population of Birmingham going hungry. While the banking elite prepare for bumper bonuses, it is clear the wealth of this nation is not being shared.”
Unite has been backing the campaign run by the Daily Mirror and the Trussell Trust to press for a national inquiry into the rising use of food banks. A staggering 141,000 people signed the petition calling for this in only a few days, prompting Labour to demand an opposition debate into the matter which takes place today.
All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 1,902 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 11 – 12 December 2013. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).
For further information contact Alex Flynn, Unite head of media and campaigns, on 020 3371 2066 or 07967 665 869.
Parliament: Debate UK hunger and rise in foodbank
The welfare minister, Lord Freud, has been accused of “rowing away from the principle of welfare” after he urged local authorities to invest money in food banks, saying that it was “absolutely appropriate” thatcharities provided free food parcels for people who could not afford groceries.