The Office for National Statistics puts the United Kingdom’s Inflation at its highest in nearly 30 years. The reality of the rising cost of living is expected to become harder amidst the Ukrainian crisis. Although the UK is not as dependent as other European countries on Russian gas, the rising global energy prices will compel everything from food to furniture to go up. With stagnant wages and the energy price soaring, households across the country face an unprecedented cost of living crisis.
Energy bills and Inflation rise
As Inflation stands at 5.4%, the highest in almost three decades, it has, as a consequence, lowered the living standards and increased the degree of hunger and food insecurity. The effects of soaring Inflation are felt widely by households with a minor income. While families are rationing heat amid soaring energy bills, the high cost of food has led many to ask supermarkets to bring back the options. Food and energy costs have conducted scores of struggling people to turn towards food banks, which feed millions of Britishers with emergency food every year. In the fifth most prosperous economy globally, there are reportedly more food banks than McDonald’s branches.
The Effects of The Food Insecurity
The financial hardship has hit every town and city across the country, which is still recuperating from the effect of the Covid pandemic. The rising cost of living can leave up to a shocking 4.7 million adults and 2.5 million children struggling to feed themselves. The fallout of the Covid crisis and the energy crisis has left only those vulnerable who are the most in need of government assistance.
While the Government’s £20 a week cut to universal credit may not seem like a tremendous amount of money to some people, for many battling the cost of living crisis and the food insecurity, it makes a significant difference to them and their families. While pensioners are hesitant to switch on the heating, children arrive hungry at school. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s latest report clarifies that severe food insecurity has led to chronic health conditions like asthma and depression in children. Besides emphasizing the after-effects of a poor diet on a child’s physical and cognitive development, the report also warns about the health issues of adults in impoverished households, who are unable to escape food poverty as the cost of living soars and incomes come down.
Fuel Prices Will Make the Situation Worst
Russia‘s decision to invade Ukraine is already causing oil prices to rise, and it could send the cost of petrol to the grim milestone of £1.50 a litre. As households brace themselves for the most significant drop in living standards in 30 years, Inflation is likely to get higher as energy prices are expected to rise significantly. Even with the Government planning to slow down the energy costs, energy will still cause a significant increase in Inflation. The rise in energy bills for the average household is expected to hit £700 or more. In this situation, households with lower incomes and higher energy costs will suffer the most.
IFS research has shown that although the bottom 10 percent of the population spends an average of 4.8 percent of their income on gas, the bottom 1 percent of the population pays 12 percent or more of their income on gas. A tax hike and the enormous bill for COVID-19 will force households across Britain to face fuel poverty, where people will spend more of their total income on fuel. Energy prices are forecasted to rise over 40% in spring, and they will hit single-adult households on low-income level hardest, which could be forced to spend 54% of their income on bills. However, Eight million pensioners are expected to benefit from the £2 billion winter fuel payment. All households are meant to receive a £200 rebate on their energy bills this year; failing wages and lack of job opportunities has made it difficult for the British Government to provide security and stability after the pandemic.
Jack Monroe- The Hero Activist
The writer and anti-poverty campaigner Jack Monroe called on the National Statistics Office to change how it measures and reports on the cost of living. He believes poorer households are experiencing higher Inflation. Jack Monroe emphasizes that the prices of cheaper goods, on which more impoverished families rely more, are rising faster. Jack Monroe’s activism has led the Office for National Statistics to acknowledge that every household deals with its inflation rate, as every family falls under a different income bracket.
The Office for National Statistics has concluded that the rising Inflation has a disproportionate impact on poorer people while promising to capture the effects of price increases on different income groups. The food activist welcomed the move and has been critical in exposing the rising hunger and poverty in the UK. The anti-poverty campaigner intends to use the Vimes Boots index of the Discworld novels to document the increasing prices of food products after the estate of the late author Terry Pratchett allowed him to use the name of the famous fictional theory of socioeconomic unfairness.
Role of the Food Banks
For most people, in-work poverty has hit new heights, and the minimum wage is not enough to get by. With the cost of living rising every day, more and more working households, including those receiving universal credit, are not getting the food they need. The use of food banks increased before the pandemic, but it rose dramatically during the pandemic.
The Trussell Trust provided 2.5 million three-day emergency food parcels across the country last year. At the same time, the Felix Project, which Islamic Relief UK supports, makes 20,000 culturally sensitive meals for the most vulnerable families. The Right to Food Campaign has been calling for the Government to be legally responsible for helping everyone because most people are still vulnerable to severe food insecurity, regardless of the availability or the stigma attached to food banks.
While energy regulators are announcing a 54% rise in energy price cap, fossil fuel companies reported billions more in their annual profits. The erosion of the welfare state has not only made the overall energy crises worse in the UK, but the affordable housing for the poor and homeless has also practically disappeared as a consequence. A fifth of adults in the UK have less than £100 of saving in the bank, and with the end of Covid eviction bans, Homelessness is also about to worsen in the country.
According to the housing charity Crisis and Heriot-Watt University forecasts, the number of homeless people will exceed 66,000 by 2024. Moreover, research done by the University of Greenwich has concluded that under the current privatized water and sewerage system, households in England are paying around £2,3bn for refusing to bring it under public ownership. Hence, Government indifference and senseless privatization have been having an incredible impact on the well-being of millions of Britishers, struggling to put food on the table for their families.