Written evidence submitted by Sustain:
the alliance for better food and farming (CVB0050)

 

The Right to Food programme advocates for the incorporation of the right to food into the UK’s domestic legislation and is a part of Sustain, the alliance for better food and farming. Sustain advocates for food and agriculture policies and practices that enhance the health and welfare of people and animals, improve the working and living environment, enrich society and culture and promote equity. We represent around 100 national public interest organisations working at international, national, regional and local level.

 

Summary of submission

The impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic in the UK are not uniform across ethnic groups, and aggregating all minorities together misses important differences. A great deal of public and policy attention has been focused understandably on difference in medical outcomes. However, Covid-19 has also manifested as a crisis in food access and poverty, experienced disproportionately by people from BAME communities; and those who already experience disproportionate rates of diet-related conditions such as obesity and Type 2 diabetes, which themselves risk factors in Covid-19 outcomes. Understanding why such differences exist is crucial for thinking about the role policy can play in addressing inequalities.[1]

 

 

Part 1: To investigate the factors that made BAME communities vulnerable to the effects of the virus, for example, overcrowded housing, health inequality and deprivation

 

Legal framework

 

  1. The United Kingdom has voluntarily signed and ratified a number of international human rights treaties that provide for the right to food. The most comprehensive is the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), ratified by the UK in 1976. Article 11, Paragraph 1 of ICESCR asserts that: “The States Parties to the present Covenant recognise the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living for himself and his family, including adequate food […].” The right to food is also recognised in other international human rights standards such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child, ratified by the UK in 1991 or the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.[2] The right to food can be considered to have been achieved when “every man, woman and child, alone or in community with others, have physical and economic access … to adequate food or means for its procurement.” The right to food must be ensured without discrimination on the basis of race, migration status or any other such categorisation.[3]

 

  1. The right to food requires States to ensure: (a) The availability of food in a quantity and quality sufficient to satisfy the dietary needs of individuals, free from adverse substances, and acceptable within a given culture. (b) The accessibility of such food in ways that are sustainable and that do not interfere with the enjoyment of other human rights. Accessibility includes both physical and economic accessibility.

 

Malnutrition and food insecurity

  1. Malnutrition is a serious condition that can increase a person’s risk of infection to Covid-19 as well as slowing down their recovery.[4] Those with an infection are also at a higher risk of developing malnutrition which slows down their recovery even further.[5] In the case of older people, malnutrition can also increase the risk of frailty and frailty can also result in an increased vulnerability to infections.[6] Good nutrition is, therefore, an essential part of an individual’s defence against Covid-19 as well as a key element of society’s readiness to combat the threat of Covid-19.

 

  1. There is a close link between food insecurity and malnutrition. Household food security is a complex and multidimensional phenomenon defined as a state when “all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life”.[7] A key component of food insecurity is lack of access to a sufficient quantity of nutritious food, which is a potential risk factor for malnutrition in children and adults.[8]

 

  1. Prior to the pandemic, household food insecurity was a serious concern in the UK for many households, leading to both long-term and short-term negative health outcomes.[9] In Sustain’s submission to the House of Lords Committee on Food, Health, and the Environment[10] we illustrated how different groups were at an increased risk of household food insecurity.[11] Of the estimated 1.6 million people who were already facing food insecurity before the crisis many were those with protected characteristics, such as disabled people[12], women[13], and people who are black and minority ethnic (BAME). [14]

 

  1. Malnutrition and food insecurity can also manifest as poor nutritional quality in people’s diets, and over-reliance on ‘cheap calories’ and long shelf-life products in the form of highly processed food, and foods and beverages that are high in fat, salt and/or sugar. This can result in diet-related conditions such as obesity, Type 2 diabetes, heart conditions and some types of cancer. Type 2 diabetes (which appears to be a risk factor in Covid-19 mortality and potentially also complications – see below), for example, has been on the rapid and concerning increase in the UK over recent years. The charity Diabetes UK reports that one in ten people over 40 in the UK are now living with a diagnosis of Type 2 diabetes, meaning that that there are 3.8 million people living with a diagnosis of diabetes in the UK, and 90% of those having Type 2. Additionally, there are almost 1 million more people living with Type 2 diabetes, who do not know they have it because they haven’t yet been diagnosed, bringing the total number up to 4.7 million. By 2030 it is predicted this number will rise to 5.5 million.[15] Such rates would be concerning in their own right, but also have profound implications for the impact of Covid-19 on health, mortality rates and inequalities. NHS England statistics released in May 2020 showed that one in four people (26%) who had died in hospital in England following a diagnosis of coronavirus also had diabetes.[16] This appears to affect people with both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes.[17] Type 2 diabetes is much more prevalent among BAME communities. The British Dietetics Association notes that Type 2 diabetes is six times more likely in people of South Asian decent and three times more likely in African and African-Caribbean people than their white counterparts.[18]

 

  1. Type 2 diabetes is a largely preventable or manageable condition through healthy eating, physical exercise and healthy weight management. The solutions to controlling the onset, prevalence and impact of Type 2 diabetes and the associated health complications lie in part in changes to individual behaviour, but also – more importantly and more effectively – in societal changes cultivating environments that make healthy eating and physical activity accessible, affordable and the easy choice. In many cases, such opportunities are less likely to be available, affordable or accessible to low-income and BAME communities. There is a ‘vicious circle’ of deprivation, poor health outcomes, lack of opportunity to promote health and prevent disease that make people from lower income and BAME communities not only more vulnerable to Type 2 diabetes but also more vulnerable to the impact of a disease such as Covid-19.

 

  1. Supporting healthy lives and resilience across the whole population, including prevention and management of obesity and Type 2 diabetes, requires the sorts of interventions being pursued as part of government, public health and local authority obesity strategies and strategies to reduce poverty and promote equality. In terms of promoting healthier diets, these require action to favour healthier foods – price, availability, product formulation, production and promotion; and to disincentivise less healthy foods – price, availability, product formulation, production, and promotion. We hope that the government’s National Food Strategy will address such fundamental issues.

 

  1. Unfortunately, we note that such work could be undermined rather than enhanced by post-Covid policy now emerging, and that competing political, financial and trade interests could undermine food standards and public health. To give just a few examples, there is as yet no indication whether the School Fruit and Vegetable Scheme will continue from September 2020; we hear that VAT will be lifted on food products to boost consumption, but making no differentiation between healthier and less healthy products; and new trade deals look set to promote more highly processed foods, not less (as the Prime Minister indicated when he chose to highlight the opportunity for the UK to enjoy more and cheap biscuits from Australia, such as chocolate-coated Tim Tams[19]). There are potentially regressive moves that could inadvertently promote ill health rather than prevent it. Sustain has documented international examples of where trade liberalisation increases the availability and consumption of less healthy products, and a correlation between this and higher rates of diet-related disease.[20] Sustain is arguing for proper integration of public health concerns into UK trade policy, including transparency, accountability, primacy of public health and environmental outcomes, and a clear role for parliamentary scrutiny.

 

Low incomes and malnutrition

 

  1. There is limited data on the dietary habits of BAME communities in the UK, and this merits more attention. However, there is clear evidence to suggest that White British adults are the most likely out of all ethnic groups to eat five or more portions of fruit and vegetables a day (data for 2017/2018). The percentage of adults in the Black, Asian, Chinese and Mixed ethnic groups who ate five portions of fruit and vegetables a day was lower than the national average.[21] Consumption of fruit and vegetables is widely understood as a key indicator for overall dietary quality and health outcomes.

 

  1. As is the case for the rest of the UK population, the dietary habits of BAME groups are affected by a wide variety of factors that include socio-economic status, food availability and access, health, religion, dietary laws, food beliefs, gender and the amount of time available for food shopping and preparation. Importantly, included among these factors is the level of disposable income available to individuals and families to spend on food – families experiencing poverty often have no choice but to pay their rent and utility bills and therefore it is access to nutritious food that is often cut when families experience financial difficulties.

 

  1. A lower income can restrict food choice by limiting selection to cheaper foods which are sometimes of poorer quality (e.g. foods that are higher in saturated fat, sugar and salt – referred to for the purposes of policy intervention as HFSS foods). Low incomes among BAME communities may also prevent families from being able to consume some traditional foods, in part because they may be relatively expensive in some areas, and this also affects diet quality.[22]

 

  1. As noted above, the causes of food insecurity among BAME communities include inadequate levels of disposable incomes. Inequity is therefore a cause of malnutrition, both undernutrition and overweight, obesity and other diet-related chronic illnesses, including Type 2 diabetes.[23] We need to end inequity to end malnutrition and the heightened risk BAME communities face in respect of the effects of Covid-19. The evidence laid out below demonstrates that BAME communities are less likely than the White majority community to have access to adequate incomes. The causes of inadequate incomes include entrenched structural racial bias and inequalities that pervade society as a whole as well as specific government policies. 

 

Poverty, employment, incomes and malnutrition

 

  1. Poverty rates are higher for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic families. Nearly half (46%, 900,000 people) of all people living in families where the household head is Black/African/Caribbean/Black British were in poverty, compared to just under one in five (19%, 10.7 million people) of those living in families where the head of household is White. People in Black and Minority Ethnic families are between two and three times more likely to be in persistent poverty than people in White families. For example, three in ten people (28%) living in families with a head of household that is from a mixed or multiple ethnic background are in persistent poverty, compared to 10% of those living in families with a White head of household.[24]

 

  1. Unequal access to well-paid and secure employment is a major reason why some BAME communities have levels of income that prohibit them from being able to afford adequate and nutritious food. Some BAME communities in particular are trapped in low-paid and insecure employment. Labour Force survey data show significant differences in levels of economic activity across ethnicity groups and within groups by gender including a sustained penalty in earnings suffered by some groups. Among men, ethnic minority groups who show the highest average (mean) weekly wages are White Irish, Chinese and Indian whereas those with the lowest weekly mean wages are Bangladeshi and Black African groups. Among women, those with the lowest mean weekly wages are Pakistani and Bangladeshi. Key pieces of public policy such as the Ethnic Minority Employment Task Force and the McGregor Smith review have attempted to reduce ethnic labour market disadvantage, however, these have at best had limited success to date. In addition, despite higher coverage rates the national minimum (or living) wage is not always paid to individuals from some ethnic minority groups (particularly Bangladeshis, Pakistanis and Chinese), partly a result of non-compliance by employers.[25]

 

  1. Joblessness, a powerful predictor of poverty and food insecurity, also impacts BAME groups disproportionately. When both women and men are taken together, all non-White groups in the UK have lower employment rates than their White British counterparts, leaving them to rely on a social security benefits system that fails to calculate the financial allowance on the basis of the cost of living, including the ability of recipients to purchase adequate quantities of nutritious food. Women from BAME communities are particularly negatively affected by unemployment. According to the Quarterly Labour Force Survey (merging data from 14 wages of data January 2015 to June 2018), unemployment rates among women by ethnicity are as follows: White British (3.5%); White Irish (3.8%); Other White (4.6%); Indian (5.9%); Pakistani (12.8%); Bangladeshi (13.8%); (Chinese 3.2%); Black African (10.3%); and Black Caribbean (6.5%).[26] In addition, an unknown number of people from BAME communities lost their jobs as a result of the Windrush scandal as they were unable to produce ‘right to work’ documents despite having the legal right to work in the UK. Many faced destitution as a result.[27]

 

The benefits system

 

  1. Overall tax and welfare cuts made since 2010 have had a regressive effect on social protection. The cumulative impact assessment by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) shows that key human rights requirements have not been met: the principle of proportionality, non-discrimination, protection of most disadvantaged groups and independent review.[28] After his official visit to the UK in 2019, the UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights reported on the high levels of poverty and household food insecurity that he saw in communities across the UK. In particular, he highlighted how recent tax and welfare reforms had left many people unable to afford to put food on the table.[29]

 

  1. Universal Credit is the main welfare benefit available to people who are on a low income, out of work or unable to work. However, many people in the UK remain on ‘legacy benefits’ including: Child Tax Credit, Housing Benefit, Income Support, income-based Jobseekers Allowance, income-related Employment and Support Allowance, and Working Tax Credit.[30] Universal Credit has been subject to extensive criticism since its inception. Among other things, it has been found to negatively impact on material wellbeing, physical and mental health and social and family lives. Universal Credit claimants have described the digital claims process as complicated, disorienting, impersonal and demeaning. Claimants have also reported being pushed into debit, rent arrears and housing insecurity, fuel and food poverty. System failures and delays in receipt of Universal Credit entitlements – including the mandatory five-week wait for the first payment – have exacerbated the difficulties of managing on a low income. The threat of punitive sanctions for failing to meet the enhanced conditionality requirements under Universal Credit have added to claimants’ vulnerabilities and distress.[31]

 

  1. Members of BAME communities are likely to be disproportionately affected by the problems inherent in the Universal Credit system. For one, BAME communities are more likely to be living in poverty and therefore more likely to be receiving Universal Credit payments. They also have lower levels of financial resources to cope with the delays in payment.[32] Higher rates of unemployment among ethnic minority men and women can also have a disproportionate effect on their welfare given how the benefits system in general – including Universal Credit – penalises larger families through the ‘two-child limit policy’; having more than two children is common among BAME communities.[33] [34]

 

  1. This policy also disproportionately affects women: 91% of the 2 million lone parents with dependent children in the UK are women.[35] In addition, the introduction of Universal Credit sanctions regime has been found to affect minority groups disproportionately and especially women as their immigration history and socio-economic profiles reduce their resilience to any sanctions imposed (for example, they are more likely than their White counterparts to experience language barriers and digital exclusion).[36] Further, Universal Credit aims to incentivise people into work. However, the Work Programme has been found to fail BAME individuals with BAME individuals more likely to remain in workless households or on low and insecure employment.[37]

 

  1. The vast majority of asylum seekers are from BAME communities.[38] Asylum support from the state is shamefully inadequate in terms of affording asylum seekers the ability to purchase nutritious food. Asylum seekers receive £39.60 per person per week (approximately £5 per day) and are unable to work unless their claim has been outstanding for over twelve months, meaning they cannot financially support themselves.[39] Children from asylum-seeking families can receive free school meals however they cannot receive Healthy Start vouchers. In addition, there are often problems with asylum support payments, such as delays and support being stopped or suspended when an asylum claim is refused.[40]

 

  1. ‘No recourse to public funds’ (NRPF) is an immigration condition that restricts access to most welfare benefits or social housing and allows only limited access to other public funds. This makes people with NRPF immigration conditions extremely vulnerable to experiencing destitution.[41] The groups that are disproportionately affected are as follows: women, and in particular single mothers; disabled people; and children who have a parent with a ‘No Recourse to Public Funds’ condition – the vast majority of these children are BAME and therefore the less favourable treatment that they receive on the grounds of national origin is linked to indirect discrimination on the grounds of race. As sex, disability and race are protected characteristics, the disproportionate effects of the policy on these groups amount to indirect discrimination.[42] In response to the Covid-19 pandemic and campaigning by civil society groups[43], the Government has extended free school meal support to some children with NRPF.[44] This is addressed in Part 2 of this submission.

 

 

Part 2: To examine the impact that Government measures to contain the virus have had on BAME people, for example difficult in self isolating, being key workers, loss of income

 

Food insecurity

 

  1. As measures to slow the spread of Covid-19 have been brought into place around the world, we must ensure that the most vulnerable have access to adequate quantities of nutritious food. Regrettably, this has not been the case to date in the UK. The Government has a legal responsibility to ensure that all people living in the UK have access to adequate quantities of nutritious food. And yet the lockdown – while necessary for public health reasons – has led to heightened levels of food insecurity. In the first three weeks of the Covid-19 lockdown three million people reported that they had gone hungry with half of this group not having eaten for a whole day. [45] Preliminary data suggested those who were most affected by household food insecurity linked to Covid-19 were disabled adults, BAME individuals, and families with children. [46]

 

  1. At the time of writing, levels of food insecurity are almost 250% higher than they were pre-Covid-19: 4.9 million adults are currently food insecure compared with 2 million pre-lockdown - and 1.7 million children live in these households. In the second month of lockdown compared to the first two weeks, supply issues have been mitigated and economic issues are now one of the main reasons for food insecurity. Approximately 880,000 adults (2% of adults) have been receiving food parcels from the Government or other charitable services while 4.4 million adults (8% of adults) are relying on neighbours, family, friends and volunteers to help them get food.

 

  1. People living in poverty – among which BAME groups are overrepresented– are at a higher at risk of food insecurity. Eligibility for free school meals (FSMs) can be used a proxy indicator for poverty as receipt of FSMs is contingent on access to certain state benefits. 29.7 % of those eligible for FSMs are food insecure versus 9.4% of those who are not eligible for FSMs. The number of children who live in the household is also relevant: 15.1% of households with more than 3 children are food insecure; 12.4% of households with less than 3 children are food insecure; and 8 percent of households with no children are food insecure.[47] This likely relates to the UK Government’s punitive cap on benefits for families with more than two children, which also affects BAME families disproportionately as noted earlier.[48] Nearly a quarter of BAME mothers (23.7%) reported that they were struggling to feed their children in a recent survey.[49]

 

The disproportionate economic impacts of the lockdown on BAME individuals

 

  1. It is important to note that many BAME individuals have been found to be more economically vulnerable to the current crisis than White ethnic groups – this will, in part, explain their heightened risk to food insecurity and hence malnutrition. The fact that larger shares of many minority groups are of working age means that these populations are more exposed to labour market conditions as a whole, but even amongst working-age populations there are clear inequalities in vulnerability to the current crisis.[50] Men rather than women from minority groups are more likely to be affected by the shutdown, but this will of course affect families as a whole.[51]

 

  1. While in the population as a whole women are more likely to work in shut-down sectors, this is only the case for the White ethnic groups. Bangladeshi men are four times more likely as White British men to have jobs in shut-down industries, due in large part to their concentration in the restaurant sector, and Pakistani men are nearly three times as likely, partly due to their concentration in taxi driving. Black African and Black Caribbean men are both 50% more likely than white British men to be in shut-down sectors.[52] Self-employment – where incomes may currently be especially uncertain – is especially prevalent amongst Pakistanis and Bangladeshis. Pakistani men are over 70% more likely to be self-employed than the White British majority. The potential for buffering incomes within the household depends on partners’ employment rates, which are much lower for Pakistani and Bangladeshi women. As a result, 29% of Bangladeshi working-age men both work in a shut-down sector and have a partner who is not in paid work, compared with only 1% of white British men.[53] Again, this disproportionate impact of the lockdown will not only affect men but families as a whole.

 

Government measures taken to mitigate the effects of the lockdown

 

  1. After announcing the lockdown, the government put in place several schemes to support people facing a drop in income and/or the loss of their employment. These included: a Job Retention Scheme through which employers could furlough workers and then secure up to 80% of their salaries from the government (up to £2,500 per month) which they could use to continue paying their staff during the lockdown.[54] The government also put in place a scheme for self-employed people enabling them to claim a taxable grant worth 80% of their average monthly trading profits covering 3 months’ worth of profits and capped at £7,000 in total.[55] However, the scheme does not protect everyone. Many people lost their jobs before the scheme was announced and those recently employed are not covered by the scheme. There are currently no accurate data on the extent to which individuals and families from BAME groups have been able to benefit from the Job Retention Scheme and the Self-Employed Support Scheme.[56] Even for those who were able to take advantage of the scheme, a loss of 20% of income would be a considerable shock to household finances, especially among low income groups among which BAME communities are disproportionately represented as noted above.[57] These schemes will have been very helpful for many individuals, however, upwards of 3.1 million people have nonetheless had to apply for Universal Credit, indicative of a loss of income/loss of employment.

 

  1. Some minor improvements have been made to the existing social safety net including Universal Credit. The standard Universal Credit allowance increased on 6 April 2020 by £1000 per year for a period of 12 months. One of the legacy benefits (benefits paid out to people who have not been transferred onto the Universal Credit system which will eventually be rolled out nationally) – working tax credit – has seen the same increase.  However, people on other legacy benefits including Jobseekers Allowance and Employment and Support Allowance were excluded. BAME communities are disproportionately negatively affected by the serious concerns that have been raised in relation to the Universal Credit system, not least the punitive system of sanctions which the Government has recently announced are to be reinstated shortly after a brief suspension during the early days of the lockdown.

 

  1. The Government has also made some attempt to address hunger arising as a result of the school closures, which is to be welcomed. Before the schools closed for most children in March in response to the Covid-19 pandemic Sustain coordinated a letter to various Government ministers calling on them to ensure that families who were in need would receive financial support in order to allow them to be able to afford the extra cost of meals whilst schools were no longer open.[58]

 

  1. According to the most recent data 1.3 million children receive free school meals in England. The large increase in Universal Credit applications and changes to eligibility criteria for some children with NRPF will have created a new cohort of eligible children meaning that there is likely to be significantly more children eligible for free school meals than the data from last year. However, the Secretary of State Vicky Ford MP stated in a response to a written question that “The number of children who (b) have become eligible for free school meals in each nation of the UK since March 2020 is not available.”[59]

 

  1. However, large numbers of children in need still miss out free school meal support due to recent changes to maximum income thresholds as well restrictions based on a child or families immigration condition. The scale of this gap can be highlighted by recent data from London. In 2018 there were nearly 160,000 children who received free school meals, however the Greater London Authority found that there are 400,000 children who live in household food insecurity.[60]

 

  1. Devolved administrations have handled the provision of support to eligible students in different ways. In England the Department for Education is advising either the provision of meals or food parcels or giving families vouchers from the national voucher scheme.[61] The voucher scheme used in England has been beset by technical difficulties from the offset. It was not able to quickly process the requests for vouchers and was only redeemable in a set of national retailer partners that did not include low cost or independent shops or markets. The national voucher scheme was extended through both the Easter and the Whitsun holidays.[62] However the extension was only publicised days before the Easter holidays started, and for the Whitsun holidays it was only publicised once the holiday had already started causing confusion for both schools and families.

 

  1. In response to sustained campaigning pressure by civil society, young people, as well as the threat of legal action by Sustain and the Good Law Project[63] the Government has announced a £120million “Covid summer school fund” through which they will distribute vouchers to families.[64] In a letter sent to Secretary of State for Education on 30 April, Sustain outlined some of our key concerns with this new policy. First of all a maximum income threshold set at £7,400 means that in order to be eligible a household can earn a maximum of £616 a month with no access to welfare support, this is clearly well below the poverty line meaning only those who are the most destitute will be eligible. The government subsequently increased the maximum income threshold to £16,190. Further, the extension of the eligibility is not for all children with NRPF just children who fit certain immigration categories meaning many children will miss out. Finally, the support is going to be rescinded as soon as schools are open to all pupils regardless of whether children still need the support.

 

Falling incomes in spite of Government measures to mitigate the effects of the lockdown

 

  1. The Government initiatives described above are welcome. However, they have failed to prevent drops in income among the population in general and BAME communities in particular. As noted above, low incomes are associated with food insecurity and malnutrition. In terms of drops in income, according to a recent survey, 15.4 million adults (29%) have lost income as a result of Covid-19. Of those, 1.8 million (12%) of adults say they are struggling in light of not being able to replace the loss of income.[65] Those most affected by a drop in income linked to COVID-19 are young adults, BAME communities, women, and those on the lowest incomes.[66]

 

  1. Drops in income also appear to be associated with government assistance measures. A recent survey found that over twice as many BAME women and men reported that they had recently lost support from the government (42.5% and 48.3% respectively) than White women and men (12.7% and 20.6% respectively). These groups also represent those in society who are the least able to cope with any financial shocks and therefore will be likely to food insecure without immediate financial support.[67]

 

  1. The increased levels of debt among BAME communities are also indicative of their inability to make ends meet. In terms of Covid-related drops in income, the disproportionate impact on BAME communities has been evidenced by a survey carried out by the Women’s Budget Group, the LSE’s Department of Health Policy, Queen Mary University and the Fawcett Society. This survey found that BAME women (42.9%) are slightly more worried about being in more debt as a result of Covid-19 than White women (37.1%) and White men (34.2%). Only around 30% of BAME individuals live in households with enough to cover one month of income. In contrast, nearly 60% of the rest of the population have enough savings to cover one month’s income.[68] A similar proportion of BAME women (42.9%) said that they would struggle to make ends meet over the next three months.[69] BAME women are also less sure ‘where to turn for help as a result of the coronavirus pandemic’, compared to 18.7% of White respondents.[70]

 

Asylum-seekers and people with ‘No Recourse to Public Funds’

 

  1. Asylum seekers are particularly vulnerable to experiencing household food insecurity due to their limited access to the welfare support system as well as the labour market.[71] [72] Many asylum seekers face the additional challenge of living in shared dispersal accommodation meaning they have limited space to store food and inadequate kitchen facilities.[73] Some asylum seekers have even had their asylum support removed while they are living in hotels, leaving them with no funds to purchase additional food (presumably some food is being provided through the hotels) and other basic necessities including toiletries and hand sanitiser.

 

  1. As noted previously, ‘No recourse to public funds’ (NRPF) is an immigration condition which restricts access to most welfare benefits or social housing and allows only limited access to other public funds, this makes people with a NRPF immigration conditions extremely vulnerable to experiencing destitution and food insecurity.[74]

 

  1. In response to the Covid-19 pandemic and campaigning by civil society groups[75], the Government has extended free school meal support to some children with NRPF[76] and increased the maximum income threshold which was set at £7,400 to £16,190. However, the extension of the eligibility is not for all children with NRPF, just children who fit certain immigration categories meaning many children will miss out. Finally, the support is going to be rescinded as soon as schools are open to all pupils regardless of whether children still need the support.

 

  1. Whilst this additional form of support will help hundreds of thousands of households we still however have some concerns, namely that many households are not able eligible to receive the support due to their immigration status[77] as well as the fact that for families on the lowest incomes this voucher will help however it will not resolve the issue of household food insecurity. We would also wish for the voucher to be able to be used in markets, independent shops, as well as online in order to ensure that families are able to access food in the way that best suits their needs and preference.

 

Part 3: To discuss what further steps can be taken to minimise the impact on BAME people

 

  1. The following measures should be taken as a matter of urgency to minimise the impact of Covid-19 and the measures taken to mitigate the effects of Covid-19 on BAME people:
    1. Urgent measures must be taken to improve the employment situation of BAME communities and ensure that they are, at all times, paid at least a minimum wage that reflects the costs of living a full and healthy life, including an adequate and nutritious diet.
    2. Social security Universal Credit payments must be increased to provide a minimum income that reflects the costs of living a full and healthy life, including an adequate and nutritious diet, for example in line with OECD social security payment averages.[78]
    3. Universal Credit must be reformed to ensure that it does not cause hardship, destitution, ill health and avoidable inequalities, for example minimising sanctions; rescinding the two-child limit.
    4. Asylum support must have parity with Universal Credit payment levels and the ‘No Recourse to Public Funds’ policy should be removed.
    5. The school food voucher system should be made more flexible in order that the recipients of this scheme are able to utilise them in their nearest and most affordable shopping outlets.
    6. Digitisation of Healthy Start vouches should be accelerated, and the scheme more consistently and effectively promoted to ensure that low-income mothers and young children benefit.
    7. The government should confirm continuation of the School Fruit and Vegetable scheme from September 2020 onwards.

 

 

July 2020

 

References

 

 


[1] Women’s Budget Group (2020) BAME women and Covid-19 https://wbg.org.uk/analysis/bame-women-and-covid-19/

[2]Sustain (2020) Why we need the Right to Food https://www.sustainweb.org/publications/why_we_need_the_right_to_food/

[3] Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, General Comment 12, Paragraph 6

[4] BDA (2020) COVID-19 / Coronavirus - Advice for the General Public https://www.bda.uk.com/resource/covid-19-corona-virus-advice-for-the-general-public.html; https://www.guysandstthomas.nhs.uk/resources/patient-information/nutrition-and-dietetics/malnutrition%20and%20coronavirus.pdf

[5] BDA (2020) COVID-19 / Coronavirus - Advice for the General Public https://www.bda.uk.com/resource/covid-19-corona-virus-advice-for-the-general-public.html; https://www.guysandstthomas.nhs.uk/resources/patient-information/nutrition-and-dietetics/malnutrition%20and%20coronavirus.pdf

[6] Guys and St Thomas (2020) Malnutrition and coronavirus (COVID-19) https://www.guysandstthomas.nhs.uk/resources/patient-information/nutrition-and-dietetics/malnutrition%20and%20coronavirus.pdf

[7] . FAO 1996. Rome Declaration on Food Security. World Food Summit. Rome. (also available at: http://www.fao.org/docrep/003/w3613e/w3613e00.HTM).

[8]Food and Agricultural Organization (2018) A review of studies examining the link between food insecurity and malnutrition http://www.fao.org/3/CA1447EN/ca1447en.pdf

[9] Institute of Health Equity (2020) Health Equity in the UK: Marmot Review 10 years On https://www.health.org.uk/publications/reports/the-marmot-review-10-years-on

[10] Sustain (2019) Written evidence (FPO0071) http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/food-poverty-health-and-environment-committee/food-poverty-health-and-the-environment/written/105848.html

[11] Institute of Health Equity (2020) Health Equity in the UK: Marmot Review 10 years On https://www.health.org.uk/publications/reports/the-marmot-review-10-years-on

[12] JRF (2020) UK Poverty 2019/2020 https://www.jrf.org.uk/report/uk-poverty-2019-20

[13] Women’s Budget Group (2020) Women, employment and earnings. https://wbg.org.uk/wp content/uploads/2020/02/final-employment-2020.pdf

[14] JRF (2017) Poverty and Ethnicity in the Labour Market https://www.jrf.org.uk/report/poverty-ethnicity-labour-market

[15] All diabetes statistics from : https://www.diabetes.org.uk/professionals/position-statements-reports/statistics

[16] https://www.diabetes.org.uk/about_us/news/coronavirus-statistics

[17] See for example: http://grantome.com/grant/NIH/F32-A..._fnGoJI-mnOb_gcQ0k6JbZtaPojB2JYc5NUCo-w67PZH4; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6824443/; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6357155/; https://www.ecdc.europa.eu/en/factsheet-health-professionals-coronaviruses; https://asprtracie.hhs.gov/technical-resources/44/coronavirus-sars-mers-2019-ncov/27

[18] BDA (2018)  Improving the quality of care for ethnic minority communities https://www.bda.uk.com/resource/improving-the-quality-of-care-for-ethnic-minority-communities.html

[19] Sydney Morning Herald (2020) Johnson invokes Tim Tams as UK growth outlook appears less than sweet

https://www.smh.com.au/world/europe/johnson-invokes-timtams-as-uk-growth-outlook-appears-less-than-sweet-20200618-p5541v.html

[20] Sustain (2018) A future US trade deal could fuel obesity and diabetes crisis https://www.sustainweb.org/news/mar18_us_trade_childhealth/; and Sustain (2018) Written evidence: Impact of trade deals on child health, Health and Social Care Committee, 2018

https://www.sustainweb.org/brexit/impact_of_new_trade_deals_on_child_health/

[21] UK Government (2019) Healthy eating among adults https://www.ethnicity-facts-figures.service.gov.uk/health/diet-and-exercise/healthy-eating-of-5-a-day-among-adults/latest

[22] Lip et al cited in https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/epdf/10.1111/j.1467-3010.2011.01889.x

[23] Global Nutrition Report (2020) Global Nutrition report https://globalnutritionreport.org/reports/2020-global-nutrition-report/

[24] Social Metrics Commission (2020) Measuring Poverty 2020 A report of the Social Metrics Commission

https://socialmetricscommission.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/Measuring-Poverty-2020-1.pdf

[25] Byrne et al (2020) Ethnicity, Race and Inequality in the UK https://policy.bristoluniversitypress.co.uk/ethnicity-race-and-inequality-in-the-uk

[26] Byrne et al (2020) Ethnicity, Race and Inequality in the UK https://policy.bristoluniversitypress.co.uk/ethnicity-race-and-inequality-in-the-uk

[27] Byrne et al (2020) Ethnicity, Race and Inequality in the UK https://policy.bristoluniversitypress.co.uk/ethnicity-race-and-inequality-in-the-uk

[28] Sustain (2019) Written evidence (FPO0071) http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/food-poverty-health-and-environment-committee/food-poverty-health-and-the-environment/written/105848.html

[29] Professor Philip Alston, United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights (2018) Statement on Visit to the United Kingdom, by Professor Philip Alston, United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights https://www.ohchr.org/en/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=23881&LangID=E

[30] UK Government (2020) Universal Credit https://www.gov.uk/universal-credit

[31] https://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/9/7/e029611

[32] Byrne et al (2020) Ethnicity, Race and Inequality in the UK https://policy.bristoluniversitypress.co.uk/ethnicity-race-and-inequality-in-the-uk

[33] Byrne et al (2020) Ethnicity, Race and Inequality in the UK https://policy.bristoluniversitypress.co.uk/ethnicity-race-and-inequality-in-the-uk

[34] Byrne et al (2020) Ethnicity, Race and Inequality in the UK https://policy.bristoluniversitypress.co.uk/ethnicity-race-and-inequality-in-the-uk

[35] 

[36] Byrne et al (2020) Ethnicity, Race and Inequality in the UK https://policy.bristoluniversitypress.co.uk/ethnicity-race-and-inequality-in-the-uk

[37] Race Equality Foundation.

[38] https://migrationobservatory.ox.ac.uk/resources/briefings/migration-to-the-uk-asylum/#:~:text=The%20top%20five%20most%20common,%2C%20Eritrea%2C%20Pakistan%20and%20Albania.&text=Two%2Dthirds%20of%20resettled%20refugees%20in%20the%20UK%20are%20Syrian%20nationals.

[39] Just Fair and Lift the Ban (2019) Lift the Ban: The Right to Work of People Seeking Asylum in the UK according to International Human Rights Law http://justfair.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/JF-Lift-the-Ban-Sept2019-FINAL.pdf

[40] Sustain and Asylum Matters (2020) COVID-19 Briefing: Asylum Seekers and the Right to Food

[41] Sustain, CAWR, Project 17 “Sometimes my belly will just hurt”: No recourse to public funds and food poverty” 2019 https://www.sustainweb.org/publications/right_to_food_no_recourse_to_public_funds/?section=

[42] Sustain (2020) COVID 19 briefing: No Recourse to Public Funds and the Right to Food https://www.sustainweb.org/secure/COVID-19_Briefing_NRPF_R2F.pdf

[43] Sustain and Project 17 (2020) Briefing paper: Free school meals & immigration policy https://www.sustainweb.org/resources/files/reports/Free_school_meals_and_immigration_policy.pdf

[44] Department for Education (2020) Coronavirus (COVID-19): temporary extension of free school meal eligibility to NRPF groups https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-free-school-meals-guidance/guidance-for-the-temporary-extension-of-free-school-meals-eligibility-to-nrpf-groups

[45] ENUF, Kings College London, Food Foundation (2020) Vulnerability to Food Insecurity Since COVID-19 lockdown. Preliminary report. https://foodfoundation.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/Report_COVID19FoodInsecurity-final.pdf

[46] ENUF, Kings College London, Food Foundation (2020) Vulnerability to Food Insecurity Since COVID-19 lockdown. Preliminary report. https://foodfoundation.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/Report_COVID19FoodInsecurity-final.pdf

[47] Data from an online survey of 4352 adults in the UK conducted on 14-17 May by YouGov Plc:

https://foodfoundation.org.uk/vulnerable-groups/

[48] Child Poverty Action Group, Briefing, Two Child Limit, Supporting Families during the Covid-19 Pandemic, June 2020 https://cpag.org.uk/topic/two-child-limit

[49] Women’s Budget Group (2020) BAME women and Covid-19 https://wbg.org.uk/analysis/bame-women-and-covid-19/

[50] IFS (2020) Are some ethnic groups more vulnerable to COVID-19 than others? https://www.ifs.org.uk/inequality/chapter/are-some-ethnic-groups-more-vulnerable-to-covid-19-than-others/

[51] IFS (2020) Are some ethnic groups more vulnerable to COVID-19 than others? https://www.ifs.org.uk/inequality/chapter/are-some-ethnic-groups-more-vulnerable-to-covid-19-than-others/

[52] IFS (2020) Are some ethnic groups more vulnerable to COVID-19 than others? https://www.ifs.org.uk/inequality/chapter/are-some-ethnic-groups-more-vulnerable-to-covid-19-than-others/

[53] IFS (2020) Are some ethnic groups more vulnerable to COVID-19 than others? https://www.ifs.org.uk/inequality/chapter/are-some-ethnic-groups-more-vulnerable-to-covid-19-than-others/

[54] UK Government, Guidance: Claim for wages through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, https://www.gov.uk/guidance/claim-for-wages-through-the-coronavirus-job-retention-schem

[55] UK Government, Guidance: Check if you can claim a grant though the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme https://www.gov.uk/guidance/claim-a-grant-through-the-coronavirus-covid-19-self-employment-income-support-scheme

[56] 

[57] Women’s Budget Group (2020) BAME women and Covid-19 https://wbg.org.uk/analysis/bame-women-and-covid-19/

[58] Sustain (2020) Charities and academics calling on cash transfers to help families cope with school closures. https://www.sustainweb.org/news/mar20_school_meals_school_closures/

[59] UK Parliament (2020) Free School Meals: Written question – 56086 https://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-question/Commons/2020-06-08/56086/

[60] Sustain (2020) Sustain Briefing: Right to Food and Universal Free School Meals https://www.sustainweb.org/resources/files/reports/Sustain_RTF_UFSM.pdf

[61] Department for Education (2020) Coronavirus (COVID-19): free school meals guidance for schools. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-free-school-meals-guidance/covid-19-free-school-meals-guidance-for-schools

[62] Sustain (2020) MP Briefing: Free School Meals support over the summer holidays

[63] Sustain (2020) Campaigners launch legal action over children's holiday hunger  https://www.sustainweb.org/news/jun20_formal_legal_action_launched_on_holiday_hunger/

[64] Sustain (2020) Back of the net! Campaigners celebrate free school meals win https://www.sustainweb.org/news/jun20_fsmwin/

[65] Data from an online survey of 4352 adults in the UK conducted on 14-17 May by YouGov Plc:

https://foodfoundation.org.uk/vulnerable-groups/

[66]Institute for Fiscal Studies (2020) Sector Shutdowns During Coronavirus Crisis: Which Workers are most exposed. IFS Briefing Note BN278 https://www.ifs.org.uk/uploads/BN278-Sector-shutdowns-during-the-coronavirus-crisis.pdf

[67] Institute for Fiscal Studies (2020) Household Spending and Coronavirus. IFS Briefing Note BN279 https://www.ifs.org.uk/uploads/BN279-Household-spending-and-coronavirus-2.pdf

[68] file:///C:/Users/sarab/Downloads/Are-some-ethnic-groups-more-vulnerable-to%20COVID-19-than-others-V2-IFS-Briefing-Note%20(1).pdf

[69] Women’s Budget Group (2020) BAME women and Covid-19 https://wbg.org.uk/analysis/bame-women-and-covid-19/

[70] Women’s Budget Group (2020) BAME women and Covid-19 https://wbg.org.uk/analysis/bame-women-and-covid-19/

[71] Sustain, CAWR, Project 17 “Sometimes my belly will just hurt”: No recourse to public funds and food poverty” 2019 https://www.sustainweb.org/publications/right_to_food_no_recourse_to_public_funds/?section=

[72] Sustain and Asylum Matters (2020) COVID-19 Briefing Paper: Asylum Seekers and the Right to Food.

[73] Freedom From Torture (2020) Joint Letter re: increasing asylum support rates in line with Universal Credit https://www.freedomfromtorture.org/news/joint-letter-on-increasing-asylum-support-rates-in-response-to-the-covid-19-crisis

[74] Sustain, CAWR, Project 17 “Sometimes my belly will just hurt”: No recourse to public funds and food poverty” 2019 https://www.sustainweb.org/publications/right_to_food_no_recourse_to_public_funds/?section=

[75] Sustain and Project 17 (2020) Briefing paper: Free school meals & immigration policy https://www.sustainweb.org/resources/files/reports/Free_school_meals_and_immigration_policy.pdf

[76] Department for Education (2020) Coronavirus (COVID-19): temporary extension of free school meal eligibility to NRPF groups https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-free-school-meals-guidance/guidance-for-the-temporary-extension-of-free-school-meals-eligibility-to-nrpf-groups

[77] Sustain (2020)  Briefing paper: Free school meals and immigration policy

https://www.sustainweb.org/publications/free_school_meals_immigration_policy/?section=

[78]