Our response to the Autumn Budget Statement

House of Commons

The Food Foundation responds to the Autumn Statement

With our regular monitoring showing ongoing alarming rises in food prices and food insecurity levels, we were keeping a close eye today on what the Chancellor would announce to support low-income households through the cost of living crisis.

Important commitments were made to uprate benefits levels in line with inflation and to raise the benefits cap – though it is disappointing to see that no interim support will be made available until uprating kicks in in April 2023, deepening the prospects of a long and difficult winter for many households.

In addition, the decision to freeze income tax thresholds and to increase the National Living Wage by less than inflation means that the real-term incomes of many working households will continue to fall.

And we are extremely disappointed that the Chancellor declined to raise the Free School Meal eligibility threshold – which would have been a very well-evidenced and extremely targeted way to support the 800,000 children living in poverty that currently miss out on daily hot healthy meals at school.

Some additional short-term one-off support will be made available via a £900 Cost of Living payment for households on means-tested benefits in 2023-24 and through continued funding of the Households Support Fund (distributed through local authorities), but in the longer term what we desperately need to see is the Government taking a cross-cutting and systematic approach to reducing food insecurity levels across the UK - moving away from short-term responses towards serious and sustained investment in our social security system and in nutritional safety nets, to reverse years of gradual erosion.

Anna Taylor, Executive Director of The Food Foundation, said: "We are deeply concerned and disappointed that the Government has today decided not to expand eligibility for Free School Meals, which we know would have proved a game-changing intervention for the hundreds of thousands of children in poverty that currently miss out.

"Though benefits will be uprated in line with inflation from April 2023 and short-term payments will be made available next year for some households, many struggling households will miss out and families are facing a gruelling winter until then.

"A shocking 18.4% of households experienced food insecurity in September, and with food and fuel prices continuing to rise, family budgets are coming under more and more strain.

"There is now a truly urgent need for Government to make concerted efforts to repair our system of nutritional safety nets and social security, which have been repeatedly weakened over years and years of cuts – now providing historically low levels of support."

A coalition of Feed the Future campaign supporters say they are deeply concerned the Chancellor ignored demands to protect children’s health by expanding Free School Meals in the Autumn Budget Statement.

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