More people than ever are being forced to food banks, with more than 820,000 emergency food parcels given out in the past six months, a report by The Trussel Trust says.
The anti-poverty charity said that April to September 2019 was the busiest half-year period for food banks in the Trussell Trust’s network since the charity opened.
According to its mid-year stats, 823,145 three-day emergency food parcels were given to people in crisis in the UK in the six months, with more than a third of them (301,653) going to children.
The charity said this is a 23% increase on the same period in 2018, the sharpest rate of increase it has seen for the past five years. And cited low benefit income (36%), and delays (18%) or changes (16%) to benefits being paid as the main reasons for people needing emergency food.
The new figures following the Trussell Trust’s State of Hunger report, the most in-depth study ever published into hunger and the drivers of food bank use in the UK. The research revealed that the average weekly income of households at food banks is only £50 after paying rent, that one in five had no money coming in at all in the month before they were referred for emergency food and that 94% of people at food banks are destitute.
The report said that the combination of problems with the benefits system, ill-health or challenging life experiences and a lack of local support were hitting people simultaneously and leaving them with no protection from hunger and poverty. And that one of the key issues people at food banks face is the five-week wait for a first Universal Credit payment.
The charity said that, although Universal Credit is not the only benefit payment people at food banks experience problems with, the majority (65%) of food bank referrals made in April – Sept 2019 were due to a delay in benefits being paid in the UK were linked to Universal Credit.
At the moment, people moving onto the government’s new benefits system have to wait at least five weeks, and often longer, with no money. People can get offered an Advance Payment, but this is a loan that must be paid back, often forcing people into debt, the charity said.
As the election nears, the Trussell Trust is calling for politicians on all sides to pledge to protect people from hunger by ensuring everyone has enough money for the basics. It is asking the next government to start working towards a future where no one needs a food bank by ending the five-week wait for Universal Credit, ensuring benefit payments cover the cost of living and investing in local emergency support for people in crisis.
The Trussell Trust’s chief executive Emma Revie said she wants our next government to start working towards a future where no one needs a food bank. She said:
‘More people than ever before are being forced to food banks’ doors. Our benefits system is supposed to protect us all from being swept into poverty, but currently thousands of women, men and children are not receiving sufficient protection from destitution.
‘This is not right. But we know this situation can be fixed – our benefits system could be the key to unlocking people from poverty. This General Election, all political parties must pledge to protect people from hunger by ensuring everyone has enough money for the basics.
‘We want our next government to start working towards a future where no one needs a food bank by ending the five-week wait for Universal Credit; ensuring benefit payments cover the cost of living, and investing in local emergency support for people in crisis.
‘Together, these three changes will put money back into the pockets of people who most need our support. It’s in our power as a country to end the need for food banks. This can change.’
Photo Credit – The Trussel Trust