Commissioner repeats call for direct payments to families as extent of UK food insecurity revealed

Commissioner Bruce Adamson has repeated his call for direct payments to Scotland’s families as a survey commissioned by the Food Foundation reveals the extent of food insecurity across the UK.


Access to food is a basic human right, and it’s one that isn’t met for all Scotland’s children and young people. Across the UK, more and more people are being pushed into food insecurity— where they don’t have consistent access to sufficient affordable, nutritious food.

People need access to food in a physical and economic sense— they need to get to where food is, then afford it when they’re there. Economic access means that people should be able to afford food without compromising other basic needs, such as heating.

This isn’t the case for lots of families in Scotland right now, so several children and young people are having their access to food compromised.

What has the Commissioner said about direct payments?

The safest and most dignified way to support families is to give them a direct payment of £20 a week― so the Scottish Government should urgently introduce a national direct payment scheme. That will help make sure that families can feed their children.

For some families, options other than direct payments will be better. Because of this, alternatives such as food deliveries should be offered as part of the scheme.

What has the survey revealed?

The YouGov poll commissioned by the Food Foundation found that across the UK:

  • 2.4 million children are living in food insecure households,
  • 2 million have received smaller portions, a reduced number of meals and/or low-cost, less nutritious meals because their parents have run out of food,
  • more than 350,000 children have had times when they’ve not eaten enough because there wasn’t enough food, since lockdown started.

These figures come as the Trussell Trust reports an 81% increase across the UK in people needing support from food banks at the end of March compared with the same time last year. Demand from children for food bank services has increased by 121%.

Commissioner Bruce Adamson said:

“Poverty and food insecurity was the biggest human rights issue facing children in the UK before the COVID-19 pandemic and this polling reiterates that the pandemic is having a disproportionate effect on those already most at risk.

“The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child has warned of the grave physical, emotional and psychological effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on children and called on governments to activate immediate measures to ensure that all children have regular, permanent and unrestricted access to nutritious food.

“Despite the significant efforts of schools, charities and communities, we are still falling short of this most basic obligation to ensure children have enough food. It is clear that governments at all levels must do more, particularly through the provision of direct payments to families. Last year the Children’s Future Food Inquiry, led by our Young Food Ambassadors, set out clear recommendations for action, they are now more important than ever.

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