We have signed an open letter to the government calling for action to be taken against poverty urgently.

Over 200 organisations committed to ending poverty have called on the people most likely to be the next Prime Minister to put tackling hardship at the top of their agenda from day one.

Frustrated by the “stark lack of focus” from Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer during the campaign, the diverse network of organisations placed their message that hardship must be at the top of the Prime Minister’s to-do list in national newspapers with one week to go until the election result.

The leaders of UK’s political parties have faced questions from the public on the campaign trail about levels of hardship in the UK, as the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) reveals the relentless reality of years-long hardship. Their latest research found:

  • Seven million low-income households (60%) were forced to go without essentials like food, adequate clothing and basic toiletries in the six months to May 2024.
  • Five million low-income households (42%) took fewer showers or baths due to cost during the cost-of-living crisis so far.
  • 7 in 10 (71%) low-income households in the bottom 20% of incomes were going without essentials in May this year, the same as May last year.

The latest JRF cost of living tracker, completed in the same month the election was called, also found over a third of low-income families – 4.3m households are in arrears with at least one household bill or credit commitment. 1.2 million low-income households are in arrears with four or more bills.

In the past year, food banks in the Trussell Trust network distributed a record 3.1m emergency food parcels.

Over the past five years, the number of people experiencing destitution more than doubled. Four million experienced destitution in 2022 including one million children.

The ALLIANCE has signed the letter, along with organisations including the Trussell Trust, Citizens Advice, Crisis, Age UK, Barnardo’s, Mencap, Scope, Mental Health Foundation and many more. The letter says, “it is clear [the public] want to see action and commitments to turn this situation around so that no one is forced to go without the essentials or need a food bank to survive.”

Paul Kissack, Chief Executive of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, said: “It is astonishing that with 7 million households going without essentials and record numbers of emergency food parcels being provided neither Rishi Sunak nor Keir Starmer are offering any practical measures to tackle this hardship with the urgency required.  Addressing this emergency will need to be right at the top of the Prime Minister’s ‘to-do list’ after the election.”

Helen Barnard, Director of Policy, Research and Impact at the Trussell Trust said: “For too many years now, food bank need has risen because people on the lowest incomes simply do not have the money to afford the essentials. Ensuring the UK’s social security system is fit for purpose and provides enough support for people to afford the essentials is vital for building a future without the need for food banks.

“We know that hardship is an issue the public are deeply concerned about and the next Government has a responsibility to lead us into a more hopeful future, one where people are supported and food banks can close their doors for good.”

James Taylor, Director of Strategy at disability equality charity Scope, said:

“Life has always cost more for disabled people. Buying essentials is swallowing up ever more cash, and prices – particularly of the basics – continue to rise.

“Our politicians need to hear this message loud and clear. We’re hearing from disabled people who are rationing how often they shower and use their powered wheelchair to get them to the toilet. 

“The next government must tackle the unfair extra costs disabled people face, and break the link between disability and poverty.”

Mark Rowland, CEO of the Mental Health Foundation, said: “Poverty and financial hardship are key drivers of poor mental health. Our research has shown that many people across the UK are feeling anxious, stressed, and hopeless due to increasing cost pressures and uncertainty surrounding their financial situation.”

“We need any future government to take more action to lessen the financial pressure people are experiencing, which is key to preventing poor mental health. This must involve a comprehensive plan to reduce poverty and economic inequality as well as taking a trauma-informed approach to reduce the poverty stigma associated with accessing public services. We need government to make sure all their decisions take into account the mental health impact on those affected, especially those most at risk of financial difficulty.”

You can read the letter in full here.

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