What impacts are unemployment and the Coronavirus Job Retention scheme having on food insecurity in the UK?

In partnership with the Food Foundation, we have published a new research brief examining rates of food insecurity among working-age adults over the COVID-19 crisis by their employment status. The report examines how rates of food insecurity compared between working-age adults who have transitioned from work into unemployment or onto furlough with adults who have stayed in work over the crisis. The good news is that the furlough scheme appears to have protected people from the major rise in food insecurity experienced by people who transitioned into unemployment. The bad news is that rates of food insecurity among the newly unemployed are extremely high: 18.5% compared to only 7.4% among people who remained in employment and 10.2% among adults on furlough. And important to note here is that this measure of food insecurty is based only on three questions: reports of skipping meals or eating less, feeling hungry and being unable to eat, or going whole days without eating. Many more people than we're capturing in this measure are likely experiencing other forms of food insecurity: anxiety about food supplies running out, relying on only a few types of food, and not being able to eat well. 

In the brief, we also use Office of Budgetary Responsbility figures for rising unemployment to project how the numbers of working-age adults might grow as unemployment rises. In the worst case scenario, where unemployment rises to about 13%, as many as 350,000 more working-age adults could be food insecure due to rising unemployment alone. These figures do not count the numbers of children that will be affected, or other adults in the household. 

In light of a wealth of evidence on the inadeqaucies of the Universal Credit system (for some examples, see the House of Lords report and a new paper on Universal Credit and food bank use (contact @rloopstra for pre-print)), projections from the Trussell Trust on rising food bank use over the next 6 months, and these projections we've published today, it is absolutely clear that the UK government needs to reform the social security net for the unemployed. It is simply not preventing people from hunger. 

Blog written by Rachel Loopstra

Get in touch on Twitter @rloopstra