To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the Written Answer by the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on 13 November 2020 (HC112026), what impact has been made by the winter support package; and whether there is an increasing need for support regarding food insecurity.
Throughout the pandemic, the Government has sought to protect jobs and incomes. This includes through the furlough scheme, which has now been extended until September 2021, and by spending billions on strengthening welfare support and ensuring the most vulnerable can meet their basic needs. This additional support includes increases to the Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit standard allowances of up to £1,040 this financial year, and uplifts to the Local Housing Allowance rates to cover the lowest 30% of market rents.
Tackling poverty in all its forms is a key priority for this Government. We are committed to helping people with the cost of living and providing a safety net for those that need it through our well-established social security systems. Building on the significant support given to the most vulnerable during the initial months of the pandemic, the Government has also delivered a winter support programme to support the economically vulnerable. This package included increasing the value of Healthy Start Vouchers, the national rollout of the Holiday Activities and Food programme, and a £170 million Covid Winter Support Grant to local authorities which started in December to support households with food and other essential costs.
The winter package also included £16 million of funding for Defra to support food charities with the purchasing and distribution of food to the vulnerable over a 16-week period starting from the beginning of December. This funding stream is being managed by the food redistributor FareShare
Defra will also continue to monitor food insecurity. As part of the Agriculture Act the Government has committed to lay a report on food security before Parliament by the last sitting day of 2021 and at least once every three years thereafter.
The report will cover a range of current issues relevant to food security including: global food availability; supply sources for food; the resilience of the supply chain for food; household expenditure on food; food safety; and consumer confidence in food.