WHAT CAUSES FOOD POVERTY?
The causes of food poverty are complex. For people with low financial resilience an unexpected life event can quickly spiral into financial crisis and food poverty. In in many cases food poverty is caused by a combination of factors, including:
financial (low incomes, changes to benefits, debt)
health (disability, mental health, alcoholism)
an unexpected life event (redundancy, relationship breakdown or homelessness)
Shropshire is a low wage economy
Employment is high (81%)
Part time work is high (37% of jobs) & insecure work (zero hours contracts)
Average hourly rate is low (£12.85), falling far short of the national average (£14)
Low income workers are increasingly struggling to cover the costs of a minimum income standard (Joseph Rowntree Foundation, 2018)
Many people on low incomes or benefits find themselves falling into debt
25% of households living in poverty are behind on paying household bills (Social Metrics Commission, 2018)
UK Household bill debts amounted to £19 billion in 2017-18 (Citizen's Advice Service)
Shropshire Citizens Advice Service helped 1180 clients in 2017/18 with their debt issues
Shropshire has a low level of unemployment (1.2% claiming out of work benefits July 2018)
People in and out of work have been hit hard by changes to the benefits system. Since 2010 45 benefits have been capped, scrapped, frozen or reduced.
Shropshire will see an annual loss of £102,000,000 per year when all the benefit cuts announced since 2010 have taken effect (Sheffield Hallam University, 2016).
27,000 families in Shropshire will be impacted, many of whom are receiving in work benefits to top up low incomes.
Many people in Shropshire fall into food poverty because of health issues or disability. In many cases these households are unable to improve their financial position
Shropshire has higher than national average number of benefits claims due to sickness or disability (8,600 people Apr 2017-Mar 2018)
People with long term illness or disability have been particularly affected by changes to the benefit system
Food banks across Shropshire report high levels of people with mental health issues seeking help with food
After working full time all of his adult life, Mark had a stroke in his 40s. Whilst waiting for his benefits claims to be sorted out he has built up a number of debts. He is concerned about the recent change to council tax in Shropshire, meaning that he will need to pay £5.50 towards his council tax. He says “to me £5.50 is eggs, bread, milk, potatoes. Now they want to take that out of my pocket, and I’ve not paid it, I’m not going to pay it.”
Sarah, in her late 50s, became homeless after her partner unexpectedly left her. To get by she found two part time jobs. Unaware of how the benefits system worked, she didn't claim working tax credits. Her claim for housing benefit was ended when she earnt additional money through working overtime. She started using food banks after she was unable to make ends meet and built up significant council tax arrears.
Peter worked for a housing association for 17 years. Life changed for him when his partner suddenly left him taking his two children with her. He has had no contact since. He was then offered redundancy from work. He started drinking heavily, and has found it difficult to find permanent employment. He is signed up with 8 or 9 agencies but finds that work in the building trade is irregular. In weeks where he has no work he is financially supported by Universal Credit. His food budget is £40 a month.
After Paula separated from the father of her child she was soon visited by bailiffs. She discovered that her former partner had not been paying the rent or council tax. She had to work closely with her housing association and the council to pay off these arrears to keep the roof over her head.