Source: London Assembly
Almost 10,000 emergency food parcels were handed out in Greenwich and Lewisham between April and September, new Trussell Trust figures have revealed. Both boroughs saw an increase in demand compared to the previous summer. Local London Assembly Member, Len Duvall AM, has warned that these numbers are “just the tip of the iceberg” with many local independent foodbanks also facing a surge in demand during the pandemic.
This comes as the latest ONS figures show that unemployment rose above 300,000 in the capital between June and September, after many businesses were forced to downsize or close their doors, due to the impact of the pandemic.
The Government has recently announced a £170m national Covid Winter Grant Scheme to support the most vulnerable and struggling families over the coming months.
£16 million from this scheme has been pledged towards helping food banks and food distribution charities through this time. However, Mr Duvall is questioning whether this funding will be sufficient in light of the huge demand being put upon food banks across the capital.
In addition, he is calling upon Ministers to target the causes of food insecurity by plugging the gaps in the welfare system. This includes scrapping the current five-week wait for initial Universal Credit payments and increasing Local Housing Allowance to cover the average rent in a given area.
Mr Duvall is also backing a campaign being led by the Trades Union Congress (TUC) for Statutory Sick Pay to be boosted so it is line with the National Living Wage of £326 per week.
Local London Assembly Member, Len Duvall AM, said:
“These are hugely worrying figures, but sadly they are just the tip of the iceberg. There are many other smaller independent food banks outside of the Trussell Trust network also dealing with surging demand.
“Whilst the Government have come forward with more support for vulnerable families and food banks through their Covid Winter Grant Scheme, there is real concern that this simply won’t be enough.
“With thousands of Londoners having lost their livelihoods due to the pandemic, Ministers need to tackle to causes of food insecurity head-on. They should start with our welfare system which has badly hit by ten years of austerity. Yet more children will go hungry this Christmas if action isn’t taken to ensure benefits keep up with the rising costs of living, and that the five-week wait on Universal Credit payments is finally scrapped.
“The Government must also increase sick pay to match the National Living Wage. It is absolutely unacceptable that Londoners on low incomes are still being left to confront the dilemma of having to work when they should be isolating, or losing their pay and struggling to feed themselves and their families”.