Over half a million people could be going hungry in modern Britain because of the government's changes to the benefits system, a damning new report has found.
A joint report by Church Action Poverty and Oxfam demanded an urgent parliamentary inquiry into the effects of benefit delay, error and sanctions amid continued efforts to cut the welfare bill.
"The safety net that was there to protect people is being eroded to such an extent that we are seeing a rise in hunger," Niall Cooper, Church Action on Poverty CEO, warned.
"Food banks are not designed to, and should not, replace the 'normal' safety net provided by the state in the form of welfare support."
The report notes a rise in the number of people seeking the help of foodbanks and suggests changes to the benefit system, unemployment, increasing levels of underemployment, low and falling income and rising food and fuel prices are to blame.
Changes to the benefit system are the most common reasons for people using food banks. These include changes to crisis loan eligibility rules, delays in payments, jobseeker's allowance sanctions and sickness benefit reassessments.
Mark Goldring, Oxfam's CEO said: "The shocking reality is that hundreds of thousands of people in the UK are turning to food aid.
"Cuts to social safety-nets have gone too far, leading to destitution, hardship and hunger on a large scale. It is unacceptable that this is happening in the seventh wealthiest nation on the planet."
The Trussell Trust, which is the biggest provider of food banks in the UK, last month reported over 350,000 people turned to a food banks for help in the last year, almost triple the number who received food aid in the previous year.
However today’s report warned the true number of hungry people could be more than half a million people, as the problem is not being monitored properly.
It called for government agencies to record and monitor people experiencing food poverty in the UK in order to establish more accurate numbers.
The report found changes to crisis loan eligibility rules, delays in payments, jobseeker's allowance sanctions and sickness benefit reassessments are the most common benefit changes that led to people using food banks.