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More than 150,000 people urge politicians to ensure people can always afford the essentials

The Trussell Trust and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation have today handed in a petition to the leaders of UK political parties in Westminster, urging them to support the introduction of an Essentials Guarantee.

This would enshrine in law the principle that Universal Credit always, at a minimum, provides enough to cover the cost of the essentials such as food, utilities and vital household goods.

The petition was signed by more than 150,000 people and the Essentials Guarantee has received overwhelming support from across the charityand business sectors, as well as a huge number of faith leaders and churches. Last month dozens of celebrities and influential voices signed an open letter demanding politicians address the growing levels of poverty in the UK. 

Food banks from across the UK alongside actor Charlotte Richie were present for the hand-in. They were joined by representatives from Barnardo’s, Locality, Motor Neuron Disease Association, Just Fair, Mental Health Foundation to celebrate this milestone achievement, demonstrating the huge groundswell of support for the campaign just one year after its launch. 

The Essentials Guarantee would be set regularly, based on an independent recommendation, and would be the first time since the welfare state was created that social security rates were based on what people need, and how much those things actually cost.

Research by the charities has shown that, from April, the £90 weekly Universal Credit standard allowance is £30 fewer than the weekly cost of essential items for a single person, contributing to hundreds of thousands of people needing the help of food banks because they can’t make ends meet.  

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There is widespread support for this proposal, alongside the petition signatories, recent research showed that 72% of the public support an Essentials Guarantee. 

Mandy, Manager at Pontypridd Foodbank: “More and more people are coming to our food bank because Universal Credit simply isn’t enough to afford the essentials. I know first-hand what this feels like. Universal Credit is not enough for me and my kids to live off and the knock-on effect of having to tread water every day can make you feel helpless.

But this can change, I want to say a huge thank you to everyone who signed this petition and is standing with us today. An Essentials Guarantee would drastically reduce the number of people who need my food bank’s support and give hope to people in the same situation I was in.”

Emma Revie, CEO, the Trussell Trust: “When record numbers of people are being left with no option but to use a food bank, it’s time to reassess the systems that should be there to support us all. The biggest driver of food bank need is the failure of our social security system to protect people from going without the essentials.

Last month, more than half of people receiving Universal Credit ran out of food and couldn’t afford more. Food banks do all they can to support the people who need their help, but they are not the solution to tackling hardship in this country.

We know that the public is deeply concerned about poverty and hungerand now more than 150,000 people have signed our petition and are standing with us calling for an Essentials GuaranteeIt is becoming impossible to ignore our collective voice telling political party leaders to act. Thank you to everyone who has supported our campaign so far, together we can end the need for food banks in the UK for good”.

Paul Kissack, Chief Executive of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation: “People across the country understand that our shredded social security system is allowing hardship and destitution to grow every corner of the UK.  And yet the British people are not currently hearing a sense of urgency or compassion from either of the main parties on this issue.  I take heart that over a hundred thousand people have made clear they won’t stand by any longer in the face of political inaction”

“While politicians may want to avoid talking about poverty, they can’t avoid the consequences of it – from rocketing food bank use, to growing poor health, to children turning up hungry at school and unable to learn.  Governments are never powerless to act.  In a country as wealthy as ours, allowing destitution to grow is a political choice”.  

“In an election year, every political party needs to set out what they believe a decent society looks like, and that must be a society without destitution and hardship, where we guarantee that no one goes without the essentials”