Benefit changes cause 'shocking' rise in use of foodbanks
- Published on Wednesday, 16 April 2014 10:52
- Written by Govtoday staff
Over 900,000 adults and children have received three days' emergency food and support from Trussell Trust foodbanks in the last 12 months, a shocking 163% rise on numbers helped in the previous financial year.
Despite signs of economic recovery, the poorest have seen incomes squeezed even more than last year reports The Trussell Trust, the UK's largest foodbank network. More people are being referred to Trussell Trust foodbanks than ever before.
Static incomes, rising living costs, low pay, underemployment and problems with welfare, especially sanctioning, are significant drivers of the increased demand. 83% of Trussell Trust foodbanks surveyed recently reported that benefits sanctions, which have become increasingly harsh, have caused more people to be referred to them for emergency food. Half of referrals to foodbanks in 2013-14 were a result of benefit delays or changes.
The Trussell Trust's chairman, Chris Mould, said: "That 900,000 people have received three days' food from a foodbank, close to triple the numbers helped last year, is shocking in 21st century Britain. But perhaps most worrying of all this figure is just the tip of the iceberg of UK food poverty, it doesn't include those helped by other emergency food providers, those living in towns where there is no foodbank, people who are too ashamed to seek help or the large number of people who are only just coping by eating less and buying cheap food.
"In the last year we've seen things get worse, rather than better, for many people on low-incomes. It's been extremely tough for a lot of people, with parents not eating properly in order to feed their children and more people than ever experiencing seemingly unfair and harsh benefits sanctions. Unless there is determined policy action to ensure that the benefits of national economic recovery reach people on low-incomes we won't see life get better for the poorest anytime soon.
"A more thoughtful approach to the administration of the benefits regime and sanctions in particular, increasing the minimum wage, introducing the living wage and looking at other measures such as social tariffs for essentials like energy would help to address the problem of UK hunger."
Whilst there has been a 163% increase in foodbank use, there has only been a 45% increase in the number of new Trussell Trust foodbanks opening in the last year. The rate of new foodbanks opening has reduced from three a week in 2012/13 to two a week in 2013/14. The Trussell Trust has launched over 400 foodbanks across the UK to date.
Foodbanks that have been open for three years or more have seen an average increase of 51% in numbers helped in 2013-14 compared to 2012-13, showing that well established foodbanks are experiencing significant uplift in demand. The Trussell Trust's figures further reinforce evidence from the recent government-commissioned Defra report that increased foodbank use is not a question of supply, but of meeting a real and growing need.
Increasingly, Trussell Trust foodbanks are partnering with other agencies to provide additional services such as welfare advice, budgeting help and debt support at the foodbank, helping people to break out of crisis. They are also providing essentials like washing powder, nappies and hygiene products to families who are at breaking point.
Oxfam's head of UK poverty programme, Rachael Orr said: "The fact that the number of people forced to turn to food banks has doubled in the last year and the situation is worsening for people in poverty is deeply worrying.
"Foodbanks and the thousands of people who support them are doing an impressive job in helping stop people from going hungry, but the truth is that in a country as rich as the UK there should not be food poverty at all. The government needs to provide adequate support to the poorest in society and urgently tackle the low incomes and rising bills that are leaving people hungry."
Source: The Trussell Trust