Working poor trapped in unbreakable cycle of poverty turn to food banks in their lunch breaks

Sentamu challenges Cameron to back up his 'warm words' with action to boost the incomes of millions of low-paid workers

Deputy Political Editor

Millions of low-paid workers are trapped in an unbreakable cycle of poverty, and are even turning up at food banks in their lunch breaks asking for help to feed their families, the Archbishop of York warns.

Dr John Sentamu, writing in The Independent, says low pay is a “scourge on our society” and challenges David Cameron to back up his “warm words” with action to boost the incomes of the working poor.

An independent commission chaired by the Archbishop says the economic recovery will make no difference to the lives of the five million lowest-paid workers unless they paid the so-called “living wage”.

They are being suffering a “double squeeze” on their incomes as their wages remain stagnant and their and living costs rise steadily.

In a report published today, the commission calls for a drive to persuade employers to pay the living wage, which would guarantee staff a basic but acceptable income.

The wage is currently set at £7.65 an hour and £8.80 in London, compared with a national minimum wage rate for over-21s of £6.31 an hour.

The commission says the number of workers paid below the living wage level has leapt by 400,000 in the last year alone to more than 5.2m, equivalent to 21 per cent of the workforce.

For the first time, more than half the people living in poverty in the UK are in a family where someone has a job.

The numbers have jumped despite wide political backing for the principle of a living wage.

It is supported by Labour, which has said it would give a 12-month tax break to companies which pay it to staff, as well as Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London. The Prime Minister has urged companies to pay the rate as long as they can afford it.

However, the commission says growing numbers of working families are below the breadline because their bills are rising more quickly than their incomes.

Food costs 44 per cent more than in 2005 and the price of energy has doubled over the period.

It warns that children whose parents are low-paid are likely to be out-performed by youngsters from better-off backgrounds at every stage of their school careers.

The commission also calculates that low-paid jobs cost the taxpayer up to £6bn a year in in-work benefits, tax credits and lost tax revenue, and suck demand out of the economy.

Working families are increasingly turning to foodbanks or borrowing money to make ends meet, according to the commission.

Dr Sentamu writes: “It used to be the case that work was the gateway to independence and served as the means to provide for the family. However, the millions of people in low paid employment are having to rely on benefits and debt to get by.

“The Trussell Trust, the organisation that runs food banks across the UK, are now reporting that people at work are turning up to collect food packages in their lunch breaks. It is no longer guaranteed that work alone is enough to provide for a family.”

The Archbishop points to support for a living wage from Mr Cameron and George Osborne, the Chancellor. But he adds: “The majority of Government departments are yet to implement the Living Wage in their own workplaces. Without a Living Wage, these warm words are not making a difference to the lives of the five million low paid workers.”

Frances O’Grady, the TUC general secretary, said: “The UK economy may be in recovery mode, but most people’s pay packets have yet to experience a similar revival. For those families firmly stuck in low-pay Britain, life is tough, and they continue to struggle to make their wages stretch far enough to meet the cost of food, fuel and other essentials.

“Low pay is blighting the prospects of millions of workers, and we need urgent action to tackle the UK’s serious, and worsening, low-pay problem.”

Read more:
Dr John Sentamu: For millions of people, work is no longer a way out of poverty  
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: PMLD Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: PMLD Teacher A specialist primary school i...

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links