New research released by consumer group Which? today paints a stark picture of the hardship many vulnerable people are facing. Their survey, running from the 29th of May to the 17th of June, found that a shocking proportion of vulnerable people are continuing to struggle to access groceries - despite government and supermarket support available.
Despite it being more than 100 days since the start of lockdown, the survey found that 29% of clinically extremely vulnerable people who have been told to 'shield' had recently faced difficulty getting essential groceries, while 74% of vulnerable people found it more difficult to get essentials than before the UK went into lockdown. Shockingly, 14% of shielded people responding to the survey were having to visit shops themselves to access groceries.
In May, Which? called for urgent government action to help vulnerable people and families through this crisis. Despite additional support offered from national, devolved and local governments, just 16% of shielding people across the UK had received support accessing groceries through their local authority – and in Northern Ireland and Wales this figure was as low as 4%.
Responding to this report, Cllr Ian Hudspeth, Chairman of the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board, said:
“Councils have worked hard to protect those most vulnerable during the pandemic and to support the government scheme to deliver food and supplies to those in the shielded group.
“We urge anybody who is struggling with access to food, whether they are part of the shielded cohort or vulnerable for other reasons, to contact their local council who will be able to help put in place arrangements to support them.
“Although the shielding programme is being paused, arrangements need to be put in place to support those who have to self-isolate or resume shielding. Government and supermarkets must ensure that there is priority access to delivery and collection slots going forward, as well as continued access to volunteer capacity to support vulnerable residents with their shopping.
“Any future support can build on the leadership shown by councils in establishing local arrangements, alongside food charities, retailers and other local partners, to support vulnerable residents outside the shielded group who are struggling to access food and other essentials due to their isolation, or because of economic vulnerability or hardship.
“Government and councils are keen to learn from every local outbreak, to ensure that no-one is without support as we move out of national lockdown. Councils will also continue to play a crucial role in supporting individuals and their families’ mental health and wellbeing due to long periods of isolation, stress and uncertainty.”