'Cruel' Tory welfare cuts to blame for poor families going hungry, damning report says
The Government's "cruel and harmful" welfare policies have left tens of thousands of poor families hungry, a damning new report has said.
Global charity, Human Rights Watch, said successive governments had "violated" the right to food, but took particular aim at the Tories.
It listed a string of welfare policies over the past decade, including the introduction of Universal Credit and the benefit cap, as being behind a surge in hunger in England.
In a new report, the charity said many of the families affected were headed by single mums.
The cuts, which it said were motivated by austerity, had amounted to a 44% reduction in support for children and families, it added.
Western Europe researcher at Human Rights Watch, Kartik Raj, said: “This rise in hunger has the UK government’s fingerprints all over it.”
He added: “Standing aside and relying on charities to pick up the pieces of its cruel and harmful policies is unacceptable.
“The UK Government needs to take urgent and concerted action to ensure that its poorest residents aren’t forced to go hungry.”
Human Rights Watch also accused the Government of having “largely ignored” mounting evidence of falling living standards among the poorest residents.
It pointed to the "skyrocketing" use of food banks and multiple reports from school officials that "many more" children are arriving at school hungry and unable to concentrate.
The charity conducted more than 120 interviews in three areas of high depravation in Hull, Cambridgeshire and Oxford, and looked at stats and government data to compile its report.
It heard from young single mothers who feared they would lose custody of their children if they openly asked for food aid or admitted they were going hungry.
The report said ministers had cushioned some of the hardest-hitting policies, including rolling back the two-child limit on welfare payments and measuring food insecurity.
But it urged the Government to go further by addressing the “significant structural problems” of its welfare policies.
It called for an end to delays for Universal Credit payments and for benefits to keep in line with inflation. It also urged ministers to develop an anti-hunger strategy with legal weight.
A Department for Work and Pensions spokesperson said: "We’re helping parents to move into work to give families the best opportunity to move out of poverty.
“And it’s working – employment is at a record high and children growing up in working households are five times less likely to be in relative poverty.
“We spend £95 billion a year on working-age benefits and we’re supporting over one million of the country’s most disadvantaged children through free school meals. Meanwhile we’ve confirmed that the benefit freeze will end next year.”