Yesterday’s Autumn Statement comes at a time when Magic Breakfast, and all those working in the child poverty sector, are feeling profound concern about the months ahead. In April, 2.6 million children were considered to be at risk of food insecurity. Today, just six months on, 4 million children are now at risk – approximately one quarter of all children in the UK.1
This means a growing number of children across the whole of the UK are experiencing hunger. Yesterday, an additional £2.3 billion of investment was promised for schools each year over the next two years. Magic Breakfast warmly welcomes this and wants to see a proportion of this money go toward ensuring school breakfast provision reaches the most vulnerable pupils. The Chancellor stated that his government believes providing children with a good education is a ‘moral mission’, not just a tool for economic growth. We will be holding the government to account by working tirelessly to ensure no child or young person in England is arriving at school too hungry to learn and so they can grow, learn and thrive.
Magic Breakfast also welcomes the announcement that benefits will rise in line with inflation. Having a robust, supportive and compassionate welfare system is essential for those struggling to get by, and for ten million families, this was the news they were anxiously waiting for. However, the rise in benefits will not come into effect until April 2023, and the government’s official forecaster, the OBR, shows living standards will drop by 7% over the next two years. This means families experiencing the most hardship face a deeply worrying winter ahead, followed by years of financial struggle.
This is at a time when food insecurity across the country is already at record high levels. This week’s data from the ONS indicates that inflation for food is at 16.4% – and has risen every single month for 15 months, now reaching its highest rate since 1977.3 And The Trussell Trust, one of the major food bank operators in the UK, says food donations are now being outstripped by need.4
As a result, millions of children and young people are arriving at school every morning too hungry to learn. The Chancellor’s promise of additional cost-of-living payments for the ‘most vulnerable’ – with £900 for those on benefits, £300 for pensioners and £150 for those on a disability benefit – could help desperate parents feed their children in the short term. But we need a more long-term solution to ending child morning hunger for good, and the government’s commitments need to go further. Along with other charities, Magic Breakfast is calling on the government to conduct and publish an equality impact assessment into the measures it promised in its budget before implementation. It is paramount that the educational investment and uplift in benefits pledged reach those who need it most, fairly and equally, including children and young people arriving at school hungry each day.
We will also be continuing to understand how today’s announcement affects the public finances of the devolved nations, and their ability to feed children, in the weeks and months ahead. As recognised by the Chancellor today, the future of our nation depends on it.
Resolution Foundation, One Statement, Two Challenges, 15th November 2022, available at: One statement, two challenges • Resolution Foundation
Institute for Fiscal Studies, Even if the government uprates benefits with inflation, the real value of benefits will be 6% below their pre-pandemic levels, 19th October 2022, available at: Even with inflation uprating, benefits next year are on course to be 6% below their pre-pandemic levels | Institute for Fiscal Studies (ifs.org.uk)
- The Food Foundation, Food Insecurity Tracker, October 2022, available at: https://foodfoundation.org.uk/initiatives/food-insecurity-tracking
- Office for National Statistics, Consumer Price Inflation, 15th November 2022, available at: Consumer price inflation, UK – Office for National Statistics[/efn_note] The Food Standards Agency is meanwhile reporting that people are eating food past its use-by date, as well as eating cold food or turning off fridges – all because they cannot afford to cook or pay their energy bills.2Food Standards Agency, Consumer Survey October 2022, October 2022, available at: Latest consumer survey tracks level of worry around the cost of food and its impact on food safety | Food Standards Agency
- Trussell Trust launches first emergency fundraising appeal (civilsociety.co.uk)