Which? has warned that many vulnerable people are unable to access the food and basic supplies they need during the coronavirus pandemic.
More than six weeks into lockdown, the consumer said it continues to hear from people who are struggling to book supermarket delivery slots, are unable to find help locally and, in some cases find themselves forced to risk their health to get supplies.
Millions of individuals have been identified by the governments around the UK as extremely vulnerable and in the very high-risk group, but Which? is hearing that some are missing out through no fault of their own.
As well as very high-risk people who are shielding, it has also heard from others have been unable to navigate government and supermarket helplines or websites.
Some of these vulnerable customers told Which? that they are having to stay up into the early hours of the morning in an attempt to book supermarket delivery slots, while others are left relying on the kindness of neighbours.
The problem also affects carers, who cannot leave the house but are not in the high-risk category themselves so also have to rely on getting delivery slots.
Carers of vulnerable people can go out for groceries but this may not always be possible if they also need to self-isolate themselves.
It has also heard from people who are vulnerable and need help, regardless of risk.
One disabled and housebound individual told Which? she felt she had ‘completely fallen off the radar for pretty much all of the supposed support measures’.
However, Which? has also heard from extremely vulnerable people who despite receiving a letter from the government letting them know that they qualify for priority supermarket delivery slots, have then been left in the dark for weeks on end about what they need to do.
Which? has called on the UK’s four governments to step up efforts to ensure that no one who is vulnerable has fallen through the cracks and is struggling to access basic supplies.
The consumer group’s head of consumer protection and food policy, Sue Davies, said: ‘Based on the huge number of reports we’re seeing from vulnerable people struggling to get access to basic food and supplies, it’s clear that the current system is not working for those who need it the most.
‘Without easily accessible and clearer information for these people, and stronger coordination between the UK’s central and devolved governments, the food industry, local authorities and local charities, there is a risk that many will go hungry during this pandemic.’
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