Our nation faces a crucial fork in the road – we must choose the right path 

16 Jun

Garry Lemon, director of policy and external affairs  

Our nation is at a crossroads.

The government has responded to coronavirus with unprecedented measures to support workers, businesses and self-employed people. But the stark reality many of us now face is laid bare in today’s unemployment figures, with hundreds of thousands of people falling off payrolls since March and the largest decreases in the number of self -employed ever recorded.

With the jobs retentions scheme and the self-employed income support scheme set to wind down over the coming months, there is real concern that this is just the start of a tidal wave which will sweep people into poverty and financial hardship.

What decision will we make? We can either choose to build the biggest and best lifeboats to sail people to financial safety – or risk many more people being swept into destitution if we do not invest enough to keep everyone afloat. 

At the Trussell Trust we know how high the stakes are. Food banks across the UK have just reported their busiest month ever. Our volunteers are telling us many people are coming for the first time.  The number of families with children needing emergency food has doubled, compared to this time last year.

This simply isn’t right. But there are things the government can do to protect people from needing a food bank as the economic downturn unfolds. That‘s why we’re working with  a coalition of anti-poverty charities to call for a Coronavirus Emergency Income Support Scheme to ensure we all have enough money coming in to weather the storm.

There are already signs the government is open to making the changes that are needed. 

Our coalition has been calling for a boost to the emergency schemes run by local councils in England, to ensure they can get cash grants into the pockets of people facing financial crisis. When run well, these schemes get money to people quickly and can reduce the likelihood that people will become homeless or need to turn to a food bank.

Last week the Prime Minister announced a new £63 million fund for these schemes in England to help people struggling to afford food and other essentials due to coronavirus.

It is heartening that the government has listened to and acted on the calls of charities and campaigners. We’ll be working with government officials to try and ensure this money is administered properly – read more about how in this blog

But we still have a long way to go to ensure everyone makes it to safety.

We urgently need funding to support the roll out of the rest of the emergency response proposed by our coalition to ensure everyone has enough money in their pockets for essentials during this crisis.

We know that for too many people, benefit payments do not adequately cover the cost of living, with research showing households referred to food banks being left with just £50 per week after housing costs. That was before this surge in unemployment – a surge forecasters say is likely to get worse as our economic downturn takes grip.

That’s why we must:

  • Increase benefits that go to families to help with the costs of raising children
  • Extend the suspension of benefit deductions to include advance payments – the loans offered to cover the five-week wait for a first Universal Credit payment
  • Lift the benefit cap to ensure this support scheme benefits everyone

Our nation faces a crucial fork in the road.

We must choose the right path. The path that builds on the foundations our government has laid and buoys up the many people already struggling to keep their heads above water, as well as people pushed into poverty for the first time.

We’ve already seen what can be done to put support in place for people –  we have the power to do this if we stand together.

 

The post Our nation faces a crucial fork in the road – we must choose the right path  appeared first on The Trussell Trust.

Make this £63 million the lifeline it needs to be

12 Jun

Garry Lemon, Director of Policy:

Last week food banks in the Trussell Trust network provided shocking evidence of the impact of the economic storm whipped up by the Coronavirus pandemic. Over the course of April there was a huge surge in people needing support, with double the number of families needing help compared to same time last year. It was the busiest month ever at food banks.

It is clear from this immediate and ongoing surge in need for charity food parcels that though we all face the same storm, we are not all in the same boat. Despite welcome measures to boost Universal Credit and Housing Benefit, a huge number of people are still unable to stay afloat.

This simply isn’t right, and must be addressed immediately by government. To that end, the Trussell Trust is working with a coalition of anti-poverty charities to call for a Coronavirus Emergency Income Support Scheme to  ensure we all have enough money to weather the storm.

An important element of this proposed emergency response is a boost to the local welfare assistance schemes local councils run in England to keep households afloat in times of financial crisis with cash grants. We’ve outlined best practice for running these schemes because they can make such a difference to people’s lives. When properly run, they  get money to people quickly and can reduce the likelihood that people will become homeless or need to turn to a food bank.

It was heartening then, to hear in PMQs the Prime Minister announce a new £63 million fund for these schemes “to be distributed to local authorities in England to help those who are struggling to afford food and other essentials due to coronavirus”. The government has listened to and acted on this call.

But now this money has been announced, it is absolutely crucial that it is administered properly if these council schemes are to be the lifeline we so desperately need at this time. We will be working with government officials and will be clear the money should:

  • be spent as intended on these schemes, not swallowed up by the growing holes in local authority budgets
  • take the form of cash, rather than food vouchers, so people can buy food and other essentials like gas and electricity like anyone else
  • go to areas in England where there is most need, and ensure  people are able to get support in the one in seven areas which don’t have an existing scheme
  • be accompanied by clear guidance for councils to ensure newly boosted schemes offer a proper joined-up service that tackles the reasons why people don’t have enough money in the long term

Then there is the obvious question about how far £63 million will stretch. We suggested that to bring England in line with other UK nations, which already have comparable schemes in operation, annual cost would be about £250m. This money will be used up quickly, then, and must be topped up after a period of three months just to keep English councils in line with others across the UK.

These are difficult questions in difficult times. Next week the publication of unemployment figures will likely present further evidence of the terrible impact Coronavirus is having on our lives. Much more must be done to ensure support is there to properly anchor us all from poverty and destitution – these schemes are just one part of the temporary response we and our partners will continue to call for.

But it’s also important for us to step back and recognise that getting this funding allocated is a significant step that could make the difference between destitution and staying afloat for thousands of families across England.

Thank you to all our campaigners, food banks, and partners such as the Children’s Society, who made this happen.

No one should be forced to a food bank. When we stand together we can make a real impact – we hope this new money is an important first step in doing just that.

The post Make this £63 million the lifeline it needs to be appeared first on The Trussell Trust.

Minutes of the London FXJSC Main Committee Meeting – 2 March 2020

10 Jun
The Bank of England chairs the London Foreign Exchange Joint Standing Committee (FXJSC), which is a forum for discussion of the wholesale foreign exchange market. The FXJSC is made up of market participants, infrastructure providers and the UK financial regulators.