The UK’s largest foodbank network is bracing itself for the busiest Christmas on record, as growing numbers of hard-up families are plunged into poverty and destitution due to benefit cuts and changes.
New figures released today by the Trussell Trust reveal that December was the busiest month faced by foodbanks in 2017, with the charity warning it expects to see even more struggling families come through its doors this year.
During December 2017, the Trussell Trust network, which consists of more than 420 foodbanks operating out of more than 1,200 centres across the UK, provided 159,388 three-day emergency food supplies to people in need, including 65,622 children.
The charity’s data shows that demand is growing rapidly year on year, and there is sadly no sign of this worrying trend abating.
Between 1st April 2017 and 31st March 2018, The Trussell Trust’s foodbank network distributed 1,332,952 three day emergency food supplies to people in crisis – a 13% increase on the previous year.
The Trussell Trust says colder weather piles greater pressure on people who are already struggling to make ends meet, including the inability to afford basic costs of living such as heating bills, food and other essentials.
Benefit cuts and changes to the social security system remain the most common reason for referrals to foodbanks, the charity says.
In particular, the introduction and rollout of Universal Credit is having a devastating impact on poor and low-income households, partly due to the long wait claimants are expected to endure before receiving an initial payment.
The Trussell Trust’s chief executive Emma Revie said: “Christmas is supposed to be a time for joy but what we’re seeing is the festive period becoming increasingly stressful for more and more people across the country.
“Our benefits system is supposed protect us all from being swept into poverty – but what we’re seeing is people struggling to heat homes and put food on the table because they simply cannot afford the basics anymore and that just isn’t right.
“We know it doesn’t have to be like this. In the short-term we’re urging the public to donate generously during the first part of December and into the new year, as unfortunately the need for foodbanks is not going to end after Christmas.
“Ultimately, it’s unacceptable that anyone should have to use a foodbank in the first place. We do not want to be here in the long-term, continuing to pick up the pieces.
“That’s why we’re urging the Government to ensure benefits payments reflect the cost of living and reduce the waiting time for Universal Credit to help ensure we are all anchored from poverty.”
Margaret Greenwood MP, Labour’s Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, said: “Universal credit is failing and the punitive social security regime that the Conservatives have created is forcing many people into severe hardship instead of protecting them from poverty.”
A Department for Work and Pensions spokesperson said: “The reasons for people using food banks are complex, and it would be wrong to link a rise to any one cause
“No one should have to face hardship with universal credit and we have made 100 per cent advances available from day one.
“For families that need extra support we are spending £90bn a year on working-age welfare, and we recently announced a £39m partnership with Citizens Advice to support vulnerable people to make and manage their universal credit claim.”