DESPERATE parents are resorting to stealing to feed their families as the cost of living crisis continues to escalate, according to York Citizens Advice.
Fiona McCulloch, the organisation's chief executive, said she had recently been to a supermarket which had security-tagged baby formula in an attempt to stop it being stolen.
“Yes, things are now getting so desperate that parents are stealing formula as they cannot afford to buy it,” she said.
In another supermarket, she said, staff had told her that they were putting ‘fake’ security tags on some low-cost, essential items such as detergent, cheese and fruit in an attempt to deter thieves. A sales assistant told her the fake tags were effective because there were 'new types of people stealing now' who didn't know the difference between real and fake security tags.
“So, we have reached the situation where usually law-abiding and honest people are being forced into criminal behaviour simply to feed infants and wash clothes,” Fiona said. “And this is before the next big hike in energy bills hits the population.”
Fiona said she was particularly concerned about the theft of baby formula.
“It’s expensive and therefore this means it has a high resale value on the street,” she said. “There are many associated risks with this, the worst being it could be resold in a poor or inedible condition.”
Fiona said supermarkets were trying to do their bit. “Several are offering free meals for children when adults buy a meal,” she said. “But you have to be able to afford to buy an expensive pre-made sandwich or snack first.
“We are a first world country in 2022, we have a welfare state and a national health service yet our citizens need charity to feed their children. It’s both demoralising and dehumanising and this is how societies begin to disintegrate.”
York Central MP Rachael Maskell said she was aware of baby formula being security-tagged in some supermarkets. The fact that parents were being forced to steal to feed their families was an indictment of an ‘absent’ government which had failed to tackle the cost of living crisis, she said.
“Here we are in 2022 and levels of poverty are almost like what we saw in the Second World War when there was rationing,” she said.
“It is getting more and more desperate. No family should be placed in this position where they have to steal to survive.”
Julian Sturdy, the Conservative MP for York Outer, said: “Reports like this underline (that) the next Prime Minister must urgently take further steps to tackle the impact of world price rises."
He said the next government should 'build on' the £1200-plus energy prices support for vulnerable households, and on the 5p fuel duty cut.
But he added: "Fundamentally, the only long-term way to help struggling families is to deliver a growing economy that raises wages and creates good jobs.”
Matthew Boxall, the Head of Public Protection at City of York Council, said parents should never ‘take chances' with food – especially items like baby formula.
“We always recommend buying from reputable sources to be assured that what you’re buying has been sourced, transported and stored correctly,” he said.