prince harry Uk britain food bank
© Reuters / Kirsty Wigglesworth / File
Prince Harry visits a food bank during his visit to Oxford, an area studied in the HRW report, May 14, 2019.
In an incendiary new report, Human Rights Watch claims that, through protracted welfare cuts over the last decade, the UK government has abdicated its responsibility to feed its poorest citizens.

The report, titled 'Nothing Left in the Cupboards: Austerity, Welfare Cuts, and the Right to Food in the UK,' claims that tens of thousands of poor British families have been left without enough food to eat and are forced to rely on charity, food banks and local community initiatives to survive, because successive governments since 2010 have slashed welfare spending by some 44 percent.

The report cites a series of austerity-motivated cuts, the introduction of the Universal Credit system - which has delayed payments to those most in need, including many single-parent households led by women - as well as an arbitrary cap on family benefits under the "two-child limit" as major root causes for the growing hunger among the British population.



"Often, I have nothing left at the end of the week," said a 23-year-old mother, with a 4-year-old daughter, from Hull, in one of 126 interviews conducted for the report.

In addition, the British government has repeatedly frozen welfare payment increases for the past four years regardless of rising food prices and inflation.


The Universal Credit system has been plagued by delays to initial payments forcing people to wait weeks at a time for relief, further compounding the looming pressure of what the human rights watchdog dubs "sanctions" against those who fail to adequately prove they are actively seeking employment, whereby they can potentially have payments withheld or reduced.


The government has also failed to respond to what the HRW says is "skyrocketing food bank use." The report cites data from the Trussell Trust charity which has witnessed a 5,146 percent increase in emergency food parcels distributed in the decade between 2008 and 2018.

However, the report did concede that the government had loosened its two-child policy for those born before April 2017. It is also expanding food programs for the most vulnerable children outside of the school year in addition to measuring food insecurity nationwide.

"This rise in hunger has the UK government's fingerprints all over it," the report's author Kartik Raj said.

"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."