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Make access to food a legal right - no one in the UK should go hungry

Submitted by David Martin Kelly on Thursday 3rd December 2020

Published on Thursday 10th December 2020

Current status: Closed

Closed: Thursday 10th June 2021

Signatures: 53,656

Relevant Departments

Tagged with

Access ~ Basic ~ Basics ~ Bills ~ Bodies ~ Ensure ~ Essential ~ Free School Meals ~ Hungry ~ Law ~ measures ~ Prevent ~ Range ~ school meals ~ Steps ~ UK ~ Wide

Petition Action

Make access to food a legal right - no one in the UK should go hungry

Petition Details

Putting the “Right to Food” into UK law would make the Government legally responsible to help anyone in our communities who in going hungry, to take action to prevent barriers in accessing food and to take steps to tackle the crisis of food insecurity in the UK which is effecting 10 million people.

Additional Information

We currently lack a legal mechanism for enforcing the basic right to food. Legislation enshrining this right would set out tasks and responsibilities for the wide range of public bodies that would need to take action to ensure everyone has access to essential foodstuffs. This could include requiring measures to improve people's incomes (such as requiring a Living Wage), control everyday costs (such as utility bills), and improve access to good food (such as free school meals).

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Government Response

The Government responded to this petition on Tuesday 20th April 2021

The UK recognises the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, including a right to food, and remains committed to fulfilling our obligations in this respect.

The Government has been giving effect to the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights through a combination of legislation and administrative measures, with the aim of progressively achieving the full realisation of the rights recognised in the Covenant. The Covenant is not, however, incorporated into domestic law, and Article 2 of the Covenant does not require States Parties to do so. The Government considers that its method of implementation of the Covenant fulfils the UK’s obligations under Article 2(1).

Tackling poverty in all its forms is a key priority for this Government. We are committed to helping people with the cost of living and providing a safety net for those that need it through our well-established social security systems. The level of support that this Government has put in place throughout the COVID-19 pandemic such as the Winter Grant and furlough scheme reflect this.

The Government has already commissioned an independent review of the food system, led by Henry Dimbleby, which will inform the Government’s new Food Strategy. Part One of Henry Dimbleby's report was published on 29 July 2020 and contained recommendations relating to the COVID-19 pandemic and preceding the end of the transition period. Several of these recommendations were aimed at addressing food insecurity, including the expansion of the Holiday Activities and Food programme and increasing the value of the Healthy Start vouchers, which the Government has already acted on as detailed below.

Part Two of the review is due to be published in the summer. It will include a root and branch examination of the food system and the economics that shape it. Part Two of the review will also contain further recommendations for the Government that we will follow up with a White Paper. Having already taken steps to adopt some of the recommendations from the first report, it is right that we consider carefully all further recommendations from this review before taking additional action.

This Government is wholly committed to supporting people on lower incomes, paying out more than £100 billion in welfare support for people of working age this year, and consistently supporting the lowest-paid families, including through increasing the living wage. Even before the pandemic, we had increased working age benefits by 1.7% and overall benefit spending by around £5 billion in 2021/21.

Throughout the pandemic, the Government has sought to protect jobs and incomes. This includes through the furlough scheme, which has now been extended until September 2021, and by spending billions on strengthening welfare support and ensuring the most vulnerable can meet their basic needs. This additional support includes increases to the Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit standard allowances of up to £1,040 this financial year, and uplifts to the Local Housing Allowance rates to cover the lowest 30% of market rents.

The COVID-19 Winter Grant Scheme builds on that support with an additional £170 million for local authorities in England to support families with children and other vulnerable people with the cost of food and essential utilities this winter. This builds on the £63 million allocated to English local authorities last summer.

Devolved administrations have received equivalent funding through the upfront funding guarantee provided, which was recently increased to £16 billion for the year to support their COVID-19 response. The Government has also made available a further £16 million to the food redistributor FareShare to work with local charities across England to provide food for those struggling due to the immediate impacts of the pandemic.

The Holiday Activities and Food programme, which has provided healthy food and enriching activities to disadvantaged children since 2018, is also being expanded across England to cover Easter, summer and Christmas in 2021. Healthy Start scheme payments are set to increase from £3.10 to £4.25 a week from April 2021. This scheme supports pregnant women or those with children under four who have a low income and are in receipt of benefits to buy fresh fruit and vegetables.

This Government has long championed the principle of work as the best route out of poverty and towards financial independence. Our plans for getting parents back to work and supporting them to progress are, therefore, at the heart of our approach to tackling poverty and levelling up across all parts of the UK. The Government is investing billions in our new Plan for Jobs, including our £2 billion Kickstart Scheme which is already creating thousands of high-quality jobs for young people, and our £2.9 billion Restart programme to provide intensive employment support for over one million unemployed people. The Government has also boosted our Flexible Support Fund by £150 million to provide localised, tailored support across the UK and we are doubling the number of frontline Work Coaches to help people to find work, retrain or gain practical experience.

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

This is a revised response. The Petitions Committee requested a response which more directly addressed the request of the petition. You can find the original response towards the bottom of the petition page (https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/562838)

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