Sustainable Development Goals in the UK follow up: Hunger, malnutrition and food insecurity in the UK Contents

Conclusions and recommendations

Hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition in the UK

1.Despite the need for joined-up cross-government action, hunger and food insecurity has fallen between the cracks in Government plans. Government continues to see hunger and food insecurity as overseas issues, with DFID the only Department to include them in its Single Departmental Plan. Government has failed to ensure that the key SDG targets relating to hunger, and food insecurity are included in planning and performance frameworks, and there is no clear ministerial accountability for combatting hunger in the UK. We are concerned at the Government’s turning a blind eye to UK hunger and its lack of progress in measuring and acting on hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition in the UK. Performance is unlikely to improve in the UK and reach the SDG targets for SDG2 unless significant and co-ordinated action is taken. (Paragraph 53)

2.The Government does not fully understand the relationship between food insecurity, hunger and malnutrition. By addressing obesity in isolation, it is missing the opportunity to effect widespread change. (Paragraph 54)

3.We welcome the many excellent local initiatives providing food and support to tackle the causes of hunger and related issues. However, these services are not available in all areas, and even where they are users can be vulnerable to a “hokey-cokey” effect of funding being introduced and later removed. (Paragraph 55)

4.We recommend that the Government appoint a minister with responsibility and accountability for combatting hunger and food insecurity within the UK. They should work with civil society to explore the scale, causes and impact of hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition; implement strategies for improvement, and monitor progress. (Paragraph 56)

5.We recommend that targets for ending hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition in all its forms are included in Single Departmental Plans. To be effective, targets in the SDPs must include UK-wide metrics, for hunger, food insecurity, and malnutrition, and set out specific mechanisms for action if performance is poor. Individual targets should make explicit links to Departments with responsibility for policies which contribute to the delivery of the primary goal, for example, reducing food waste (SDG12) and monitoring the living wage, in respect of goals 2.1 and 2.2. (Paragraph 57)

6.We recommend that the Government update its obesity strategy to take account of the close relationship between obesity, hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition in the UK. We support the call from the Patients Association for Government to create a definition of under-nutrition which includes both underweight and overweight individuals, and a tool for identifying it. (Paragraph 58)

7.We recommend that the Government work with the Office for National Statistics to measure the potential impact that Universal Credit may have on rates of hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition in all its forms in pilot Universal Credit areas. To be effective this measure should account for the rates of hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition before and after the implementation of Universal Credit and compare these rates with areas where Universal Credit has not been applied.” (Paragraph 59)

8.In the event that the UK leaves the EU, the Government must deliver on its promises that British food standards will be maintained. We welcome the Government’s intention to review food labelling to enable consumers to make more informed choices and believe that the final system should be accompanied by an awareness campaign. (Paragraph 60)

The Sustainable Development Goals in the UK

9.In their present format, Single Departmental Plans are wholly inadequate as a means of delivering the SDGs in the UK. (Paragraph 132)

10.ONS has made some significant progress in developing metrics for the SDGs, reporting on 64% of indicators in its online portal. However, gaps still exist both among the indicators which they are yet to publish and among the existing indicators in terms of geography, demographic data and frequency of data updates. (Paragraph 134)

11.The VNR offers an opportunity for Government to audit its own performance so far against the SDGs, and to raise the profile of the SDGs. As promised by DFID, there needs to be a mechanism for consulting Parliament on the Voluntary National Review, allowing for Parliamentary scrutiny of the full VNR before it is submitted. (Paragraph 135)

12.We welcome Government’s commitment to put the SDGs “at the heart of the Single Departmental Plans”. However, the SDPs need to be explicitly linked to each SDG target, and mapped against underlying indicators. The Cabinet Office should be responsible for ensuring that no target is left out from the SDPs and should allocate accountability where required. It should facilitate cross-departmental working on targets where more than one department may influence the UK’s progress. Progress towards the SDGs should be aggregated into a single annual report by Government, as previously recommended by our predecessor Committee. (Paragraph 136)

13.We reiterate the recommendation made in our initial 2017 inquiry that Government should do everything it can to support partners (government agencies, local government, civil society, business and the public) to contribute towards delivering the Goals. (Paragraph 137)

14.ONS should continue to develop its metrics to cover all SDG indicators. Government and civil society must work with ONS to ensure that Government is able to work from timely, UK-wide metrics to measure its performance, with sufficient disaggregation to identify areas of need. It should consider the existing data to determine whether it is fit for current purpose, and to ensure that it covers the outcomes of actions, rather than just outputs. Government should also ensure that it establishes specific mechanisms for action if performance is poor. The Government should show leadership by introducing an SDG impact assessment as part of the cost-benefit analysis undertaken by Government, or for politically strategic events such as the Queen’s Speech and Budget. (Paragraph 138)

15.Government must ensure that it engages with stakeholders, MPs and civil society groups in the Voluntary National Review Process. It must also fulfil its commitment to bring the VNR before Parliament for scrutiny before it is submitted. Senior Ministers, civil society and Parliamentarians should be present when the VNR is presented at the High Level Political Forum in July 2019. (Paragraph 139)

Published: 10 January 2019