Feeding Britain Trustees Heidi Allen MP and Frank Field MP are launching an inquiry into the extent and causes of chronic poverty in England.

Five years on from the parliamentary inquiry that was conducted by a cross-party group of MPs and Peers, into the growing need for food banks in this country, Frank and Heidi will refresh the inquiry’s findings with a series of visits to food banks and other front line community organisations across England throughout the next month.

Their main objective is to gain evidence on how and why the face of poverty is changing in our communities, to gauge the severity of destitution in each area, and to seek ideas for a reform programme to protect people from hunger and homelessness. 

Heidi comments: ‘Through our work on the Work and Pensions Select Committee, as well as the projects we are implementing with Feeding Britain, we are gaining regular insights into specific aspects of poverty in this country. The point of these visits is to expose the nature of this poverty in its entirety and, most importantly, what needs to be done to address it.’

The MPs began their inquiry in London where they met with front line workers and clients of First Love Foundation, Oasis Hub Waterloo, and Pecan Southward Foodbank. Testimonials from those with lived experience of food poverty exposed the significant barriers that people face in securing support from the government when faced with extreme life hardships and personal difficulties. Where the government and its social security system failed people, charities were there to pick up the pieces.

Yet the MPs also heard that this was not the original mission of these charities. Their aim was initially to empower people to rise up above the poverty line and to thrive. They now felt that life has become so difficult for some of their clients that their primary role is now to bring people back from destitution and up to the poverty line. They urged that a balance has to be struck between the state and charities. The state is responsible for ensuring a minimum level below which citizens do not fall below, and charities are there to help communities and individuals to thrive.

Frank adds: ‘Half a century ago, when Bobby Kennedy encountered hungry children and sheer desperation in some of his country’s poorest communities, he issued a plea for action to salvage the living standards of what he called “the other America”. What Heidi and I are seeking to discover in the next few weeks is how the soft underbelly of our society – “the other England” – can be strengthened so that none of our fellow citizens are pushed into destitution.

Heidi Allen MP and Frank Field MP will continue their inquiry over the coming weeks with the following itinerary:

Thursday 17th January – Newcastle

Thursday 24th January – Leicester

Thursday 7th February – Morecambe

Feeding Britain will prepare a report at the close of the inquiry and will use its recommendations to help steer its policy work over the coming year.