More than half a million people were supported by foodbanks in only a six month period, according to shocking new statistics from Trussell Trust, as the number of people left dependent on food banks due to Government austerity measures is set to reach a record high in 2016.
And the true figure could be much higher, because Trussell Trust is just one of many charities, social enterprises, and community-led groups and organisations, who provide food parcels to people in crisis in the UK.
Problems with benefits accounted for 44% of all referrals, followed by low-income caused by issues such as insecure employment. Trussell Trust has called for a direct telephone line between foodbanks and local job centres to support people in crisis more quickly and efficiently.
David McAuley, Chief Executive of The Trussell Trust, said: “As the number of emergency food parcels provided to people by foodbanks rises once again, it’s clear that more can be done to get people back on their feet faster.
“Many foodbanks now host independent welfare and debt advisers but they cannot solve all the issues. To stop UK hunger we must make sure the welfare system works fairly and compassionately, stopping people getting to a point where they have no money to eat.
“It feels like we could be seeing a new era at the DWP with a consultation on Work Capability Assessments and willingness to engage in dialogue with charities working on the front line. A telephone hotline could build on this and go a long way to improving foodbanks ability to help get people out of a crisis faster.”
Green Party co-leader Jonathan Bartley described the rise in foodbank demand as a “national scandal”, and called on the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to scrap controversial benefit sanctions and improve support for vulnerable people.
Bartley said: “It is a national scandal that the Trussell Trust has had to deliver half a million emergency food parcels in the last six months. Britain is the sixth largest economy in the world and it is shameful that so many families are facing food poverty.
“It is disgusting that the Government accepts foodbanks as a feature of life in 21st Century Britain when it could address its policy failures which are leading to foodbank use.
“With almost half of referrals caused by issues with benefits it is laudable that the Trussell Trust has called for hotlines to Job Centres – but this should not be necessary any more than foodbanks are.
“The Government must commit to scrapping sanctions and provide emergency support that works when benefits are delayed so fewer people are forced to rely on emergency support just to put food on the table.
“In the long term, the Government should seriously examine the case for a basic income, a universal payment to all people, which would get rid of the need rely on a foodbank again.”
Debbie Abrahams MP, Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pension, said: “The Trussell Trust report showing that the UK is on course for a record number of people needing to use emergency food parcels is a damming indictment of the Tory Government’s failure.
“Even more staggering in the run up to Christmas is almost 200,000 children will be relying on a food parcel to get a decent meal.
“It is clear that delays in benefits payments and changes to eligibility are a major cause behind this increase.
“While the Tories continue to look the other way, refusing to accept the evidence, I’ve announced that Labour would scrap their punitive sanctions regime.
“Labour will transform our social security system, ensuring that it is there for everyone in their time of need”.
SNP MP Mhairi Black said the statistics from Trussell Trust “expose the utter failure of the Tory austerity agenda”, and said they were a “damning indictment of the UK Government’s record which should leave the Tories deeply ashamed”.
She added: “While foodbanks do an excellent job of providing for those who need it, they should not need to exist.
“Evidence shows that sanctioning leads to increased use of foodbanks, as well as huge amounts of stress on individuals and their families”.
Mhairi Black has introduced a Private Members Bill regarding the Government’s “unfair” sanctions regime.
“I have seen first-hand the terrible effect unfair sanctions have had on the lives of my constituents that is why I have introduced my Private Member’s Bill aiming to limit the devastating impact of the punitive regime on disadvantaged people across the UK.
“My Bill will introduce a process of assessing a claimant’s circumstances by creating a code of conduct.
“Like many people I believe the current benefit sanctions process can be very impersonal, however, I don’t want to waste the opportunity of using a Private Members Bill purely to make a protest.
“This is a pragmatic attempt to address a serious issue and, if passed, will help to alleviate the worst excesses of the current process.”
This article was last edited at 05:53 on 13 November 2016 to correct an editing error. Report an error: [email protected]