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Research: UK’s essential workers facing food insecurity

New data form the Food Foundation has shown that essential workers in the UK are struggling to access enough food, with 24.9% of households with a National Health Service (NHS) or social care worker experiencing food insecurity in January 2023.

More than a quarter (25.8%) of households home to food sector workers and 21.1% of households home to education workers also experienced food insecurity at the start of the year.

The Food Foundation said the figures come at a time of disputes between the NHS and education unions with the government, as they call for wage increases.

The charity, aimed at providing food security, said that employment is not necessarily sufficient in preventing families from falling into food insecurity, as 38.6% struggling in January were employed.

Anna Taylor, executive director of the Food Foundation, said: “Struggling to afford food is by no means confined to those out of work.

“Many people doing important jobs are also suffering the stress and indignity of not knowing if their pay cheque will allow them to buy the bare essentials.

“Businesses must pull out all the stops to help their lower paid staff and the government needs to seriously scrutinise why their policies are failing to protect struggling families from affording the basics and start setting some targets for reducing food insecurity levels, particularly amongst benefit claimants. ”

The Food Foundation said it is calling on the government to take action to ensure that no one in the UK has to suffer food insecurity by ensuring that minimum wage and benefit levels are set at sufficient levels for individuals and families.

Head of GMB union, Rachel Harrison, said no one should face food insecurity in “one of the richest countries in the world”.

“It is a disgrace that so many of our social care, NHS, and school support staff workers aren’t even earning enough to cover these essentials,” she said.

“NHS workers had to take strike action for better wages, and pay rates are desperately low across care and school support staff roles. Too many of these workers – who do vital work for the most vulnerable and our children – are paid a pittance.

“And it is a mark of shame that half of NHS Trusts are setting up foodbanks for their own workers. This shows why decent pay rises for NHS workers are essential.

“It’s time that the government and employers paid the decent wages that all key workers deserve.”


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