Tuesday, February 25, 2014

End Hunger Fast: Britain's 'Circle of Protection' Campaign

Half a million people have visited food banks since last Easter and 5,500 people were admitted to hospital in the for malnutrition last year. One in five mothers report regularly skipping meals to better feed their children, and ever more families are just one unexpected bill away from waking up with empty cupboards. We often hear talk of hard choices. Surely few can be harder than that faced by the tens of thousands of older people who must “heat or eat” each winter, harder than those faced by families who’s wages have stayed flat while food prices have gone up 30% in just five years.
Does this scenario sound familiar? While this situation easily applies to the United States, the description was written specifically about the United Kingdom. These words are part of a letter that a group of Anglican bishops, in partnership with Methodist, United Reform Church and Quaker leaders,wrote to oppose the British government's cuts in safety net programs.

In 2013, British authorities enacted multitude of changes to Britain’s welfare system, including a cap on the level of benefits that people who are employed are eligible to receive. Additionally, job, house and child-related benefits were merged into a single ‘universal credit’ initiative that sharply reduced the entitlements that the country’s lowest-income families are able to obtain.

In an effort reminiscent of the Circle of Protection campaign launched by religious leaders in the United States in 2011., British religious leaders have created  End Hunger Fast during the coming Lenten season and beyond. "On March 5th we will begin a time of fasting while half a million regularly go hungry in Britain," said the letter from the religious leaders, urging the faithful to join them in a fast during Lent.  "We urge those of all faith and none, people of good conscience, to join with us."  Here is the text of the letter

End Hunger Fast logo
"There is an acute moral imperative to act. Hundreds of thousands of people are doing so already, as they set up and support foodbanks across the UK. But this is a national crisis, and one we must rise to," said the campaign Web site. "We call on government to do its part: acting to investigate food markets that are failing, to make sure that work pays, and to ensure that the welfare system provides a robust last line of defence against hunger."

Prime Minister David Cameron disputes that the changes have created the levels of extreme hardship that the bishops suggest. "Mr. Cameron did emphasise his awareness that many families are struggling as a result of the programme, but continually highlighted that the measures were necessary in order to complete the economic recovery of the country and the transformation away from reliance on benefits," said  an article in Money Expert.com

The organizers of End Hunger Fast, point out that Britain is the world's seventh largest economy, and should not be cutting off support for the most vulnerable in society.  are urging the prime minister to take a closer look at the impact of the British government's policies.“We invite the Prime Minister to come and see for himself the foodbanks operating in places like Mansfield, for him to join us in a national day of fasting and reflection on April the 4th, and ultimately asking him to act to prevent the rise of hunger,” said Keith Hebden, End Hunger Fast campaign spokesman and Parish Priest for Mansfield

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