A study by the IPPR think-tank has found that social security payments are now at their lowest level since the launch of the welfare state.

The study found that the standard £73 weekly allowance for Universal Credit is equivalent to just 12.5% of median earnings, compared to 20% when unemployment benefit was introduced in 1948.

This report coincided with the latest data from the Trussell Trust network of food banks, revealing that demand for food banks has risen by 3,772% over the last decade.

The Trust had 57 outlets open in 2009/10, distributing 40,898 aid packages, and by the end of March this year the number of food banks had risen to 425, giving away 1.58m packages of food. More than a third of the aid packages are for children. Tower Hamlets also has a number of independent food banks who provide support to residents and so the numbers will be even higher.

In Tower Hamlets, a Tackling Poverty Fund has been set up which is a ring-fenced £6.6m fund to help the most vulnerable residents and includes providing advice at food banks and providing crisis loans.

Leader of Tower Hamlets Labour Group, Mayor John Biggs said: “It’s no surprise that food bank use is soaring when benefit payments have not kept up with living costs. I regularly see cases at my advice surgeries where residents are struggling to make ends meet. We need the government to step in to fix the broken welfare safety net.”

Councillor Rachel Blake, the Labour Group’s Cabinet Member for Planning, Air Quality and Tackling Poverty, said: “The creation of the welfare state was a great political achievement and these figures are damning in showing that it is being undermined. I am proud of the steps we have taken in Tower Hamlets to protect our residents but until benefit payments keep up with living costs food bank usage will only increase.”



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