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National foodbank charity The Trussell Trust have released their end of year statistics for the period April 2018 to March 2019. They show that the number of food parcels they gave out rose by 19% to nearly 1.6 million. Just under 500,000 of those were for children. The main reason for this rise? Benefits not covering living costs.
Earlier this year Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd MP was forced to admit that Universal Credit had played a part in the rise of foodbank use. Thanks to foodbank charity the Trussell Trust we can once again see that this is true.
Each year the charity releases its end of year statistics. Their network of over 1200 foodbanks keep detailed records of the number of people visiting them and the reasons why. This helps paint a picture of what needs to change to improve people’s situation.
Between April 2018 and March 2019, 1,583,668 food parcels were given out across the UK. 577,618 of these went to children.
The new figures represent a 19% increase compared with 2017/18. An even more shocking statistic is that foodbank use has risen by 73% in just five years. Universal Credit started to roll-out in 2013 so you can see an obvious link.
Above you can see a breakdown of how many food parcels were given out in each country in the United Kingdom.
The Reason for the Rise
The figures also explain why people are visiting foodbanks in the first place.
The main reasons for people needing emergency food was; benefits consistently not covering the cost of living (33%), and delays (20%) or changes to benefits being paid (17%).
It is pointed out that Universal Credit is not the only benefit that is causing issues either, although it does 49% of the time.
Trussell Trust Response
The Trussell Trust’s chief executive Emma Revie said:
“What we are seeing year-upon-year is more and more people struggling to eat because they simply cannot afford food. This is not right.
“Enough is enough. We know this situation can be fixed – that’s why we’re campaigning to create a future where no one needs a food bank. Our benefits system is supposed to protect us all from being swept into poverty. Universal Credit should be part of the solution but currently the five week wait is leaving many without enough money to cover the basics. As a priority, we’re urging the government to end the wait for Universal Credit to ease the pressure on thousands of households.
“Ultimately, it’s unacceptable that anyone should have to use a food bank in the first place. No charity can replace the dignity of having financial security. That’s why in the long-term, we’re urging the Government to ensure benefit payments reflect the true cost of living and work is secure, paying the real Living Wage, to help ensure we are all anchored from poverty.”
Not The Full Picture
It must be noted that Trussell Trust figures cannot be used to fully explain the scale of foodbank use across the UK.
There are more than 1,200 food bank centres in the Trussell Trust’s network across the UK but, according research from the Independent Food Aid Network (IFAN), there are at least 805 independent foodbanks, so the Trussell Trust network accounts for roughly two-thirds of all foodbanks in the UK.
Recent figure released by IFAN show that in Scotland alone, “at least 156,735 emergency food parcels were given out by 84 independent food banks in Scotland.”
Using these figures, it can be shown that at least 367,340 three-day emergency food parcels where distributed between April 2018 and March 2019.
Were this to be replicated for the entire United Kingdom using the 34.4% difference in Scotland, this would put the total number of people using a foodbank UK wide at approximately 2.1 million.
In a so-called developed country it is frankly disgusting that so many people are being forced to get help with food.
Debbie Abrahams, MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth, commenting on the Trussell Trust’s annual report, said:
“I’m not surprised to see a 19% increase in the number of food parcels the Trussell Trust network distributed last year given the on-going issues with social security support, particularly Universal Credit, and the use of sanctions, or that so many people are struggling to make ends meet whether in work or not.
“What is shocking though is that many people reading that more than 1.5 million 3-day parcels were handed out with over half a million going to children will let it wash over them, and not think about what this means. It means that children will be going to bed hungry, that teachers will be bringing in food for breakfast for many in their classes and parents will worry about how they will feed their kids during school holidays. It means that not only will some of these children struggle at school but that this will impact on their adult life as well.
“I applaud the Trussell Trust’s work and support their call to end the wait for Universal Credit. But I would add that we also need to see an immediate end to the freeze in social security support payments, which has seen this support fail to keep pace with the cost of living. We need a new, 21st century social contract with the British people on our welfare system including the adequacy of social security and the support it provides.”
To most, these figures will come as no surprise. It is well known that foodbanks are struggling to meet demand. Some MPs think it is right that charities are taking up the slack from the government.
That type of response is a cop out. It is an attempt to absolve themselves from the suffering that they are causing. With the current government it is almost certainly, a way of saving themselves money too.
Change is Needed NOW
Trussell Trust are running a campaign called; #5weekstoolong. This is in reference to the 5 weeks you must wait before being paid your first Universal Credit payment.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) will say that they offer 100% advances but this has been shown to be pushing claimants into debt.
While I support an end to the five week waiting period, ultimately Universal Credit needs to go. It is causing so much harm and death that it is forever tarnished.
It is high time that a fair, compassionate and humane welfare system is built. Since 2010 the welfare state has been slowly dismantled by the government. It needs to stop now so the suffering can end.
I contact the DWP for a comment but received no response at the time of publishing.
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