Mayor calls for benefits rise to help vulnerable cope with food price rises in a no-deal Brexit

Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson is calling on the Government to increase welfare payments by 20% to help people in poverty continue to afford to buy food in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

Mayor Anderson said: “We are hurtling towards a no-deal Brexit and a real risk of a crisis facing the availability and cost of food for the most vulnerable in our city.

“We know that foodbanks which rely on donations are likely to see a reduction in those donations either from manufacturers, retailers and the public.

“Schools, hospitals, care homes, homeless shelters, meals on wheels are all likely to suffer as a result of price increases and supply chain disruption.

“There are people who we know are on benefits, in low paid jobs, have disabilities or rely on the state pension. Many of these use our school breakfast clubs, holiday hunger schemes and our food banks on a regular basis because they are on the edge of crisis.

“Food banks can’t pick up the pieces – they are already struggling to cope with the demand and have made it clear to government they can’t respond in the event of food donations drying up. They don’t have the capacity to stockpile. The government needs to recognise the impacts on residents who are at risk of food insecurity.”

His comments come after Michael Gove, the Cabinet minister responsible for preparing for Brexit, conceded food prices may rise. Increases predicted at 5% to 10% have previously been made by the Governor of the Bank of England and the Cabinet Secretary.

Sustain, the alliance for better food and farming, which represents organisations who feed people in need such as Fareshare and the Trussell Trust – fears that 8.4 million people across the country could be pushed into crisis due to rising food prices, increasingly precarious jobs, and possible shortages of food – especially staples like fresh fruit and vegetables.

One in four households in Liverpool receive welfare benefits, and Mayor Anderson has today announced that the city council will be setting aside another £250,000 to support people in poverty – in addition to the millions of pounds the local authority already allocates for hardship schemes to help vulnerable people.

He added: “What I am saying loudly and clearly to Government and to politicians in Westminster is that the poorest people in the country need your help. You need to understand and recognise that a no-deal Brexit is going to increase the cost of living to the poorest within this country.

“The Government is spending £100 million on a publicity campaign telling people to get ready for Brexit when it should be spending money helping those who will be worst affected by it.  

“So I am calling on Government to agree to uplift benefits and pensions by 20 percent, so that vulnerable people know they will be able to live in security and afford the increase in prices which could just be weeks away.”

Sustain wants the Government to guarantee a hardship fund so that people on a low income can feel confident that they would be able to buy the food they need for themselves and their children, and that frontline charities would be able to continue to serve meals to vulnerable people most in need.

Chief Executive Kath Dalmeny said: “The Government must acknowledge that millions of people could go hungry unless a national hardship fund is set aside, with clear contingency plans for how this could be distributed effectively to reach those most in need.

“We can all do our best to respond locally, but large-scale national action and communication is also required. We believe that the UK public must be made aware of the threats to food supply, not least to ensure informed public and professional decision-making and to prevent panic buying, and we support this call from Mayor Anderson for help to be provided to the most vulnerable.”