Empty shelves at Watford food bank (Picture: @WatfordFoodbank on Twitter)

Two new surveys hammer home that the social emergency of squeezed pay, benefits and pensions is far from over for millions of people in Britain.

A survey of 2,000 workers by the Living Wage Foundation found that 60 percent have used a food bank in the last year. Half say they are worse off than a year ago. Two in five have regularly skipped meals or fallen behind on household bills.

Around 25 percent said they had taken out a payday loan to cover essentials. The figures shatter the myth peddled by the Tories and most of the Labour Party that work is a way out of poverty. Instead, people are trapped on low pay with only existence-level benefits as an alternative.

And reports from local food banks confirm the crisis. This week a food bank in Kettering near Nottingham said demand for its services has hit an all-time high with more people than ever before turning to the charity for help.

It had to buy in £10,000 of stock as demand rises and fewer people are able to donate items. Wirral Food Bank on Merseyside said it had provided 16,123 emergency food parcels in the last year, a rise of a quarter. At the same time, there has been a 13 percent reduction in food donations.

Watford food bank near London has been left with empty shelves after a “significant reduction” in donations ahead of the colder months. It’s a scandal that food banks have become so normalised, so much a part of how people survive.

The Living Wage Foundation survey comes a month before it announces new living wage rates for the next year which will reflect increasing living costs.

The rate, which is supposed to represent what people need to live decently, is currently £10.90 an hour for those in Britain overall and £11.95 in London. This is more than the statutory national living wage of £10.42 an hour for adults.

In fact, neither of these rates is enough to allow a proper life. Nobody in any job or at any age should be on less than £15 an hour as a very minimum.

Katherine Chapman, director of the Living Wage Foundation, said, “Today’s research shows that the cost of living crisis is far from over.” She said it was “especially for the 3.5 million workers who are paid less than the real living wage.”

And another survey confirms the spread of poverty. It showed that nearly 60 percent of disabled people say living costs are making them feel financially unstable. This is almost 10 percent higher than the population in general. One in six disabled people said they have turned to high-cost loans due to being rejected from mainstream lenders.

The research was carried out by Opinium on behalf of lender Creditspring. Battling poverty requires a determined push for wage rises that go beyond the real rate of inflation. That means at least double-digit rises. And that can encourage a fight over benefits too.

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