Just one of the revelations to come from the most comprehensive study on food bank use to date. Conducted over 3 years by Heriot-Watt University, the study was commissioned by the Trussell Trust.
The Trussell Trust’s aim is to end hunger and poverty in the UK. In the UK, more than 14 million people are living in poverty – including 4.5 million children.
Food banks provide emergency food and support.
The Trust supports more than 1,200 food bank centres in the UK. Providing a minimum of three days’ nutritionally-balanced emergency food to people who have been referred in crisis.
They also help
people resolve the crises they face.
Between April 2018 and March 2019, food banks in the Trust’s network provided a record 1.6 million food supplies to people in crisis, a 19% increase on the previous year.
“We know it takes more than food to end hunger. That’s why we bring together the experiences of food banks in our network to challenge the structural economic issues that lock people in poverty, and campaign to end the need for food banks in the UK.”
The average weekly income of people at food banks is only £50.
After paying rent the
average food bank user has only £50 a week to live on. Almost one in five have no money coming in at
all in the month before being referred for emergency food.
94% of users are described
The report also found that almost three-quarters of people at food banks live in households
affected by ill-health or disability.
of people at food banks are single parents, compared to five% in the UK
More than three-quarters of people referred to food banks were in rent arrears
Use of food banks rising due to 3 main factors.
The 3 year-long research project has shown definitively, for the first time the 3 main problems that affect people.
Very often the problems can hit people all at the same time. The report shows that problems with the benefits system, ill health and life challenging experiences, and a lack of local support can leave people with no protection from hunger and poverty.
bank users rely on the benefits system. This affects two thirds of visitors to
The most commonly highlighted problems were a reduction in the value of benefit payments. Being turned down for disability benefits. Being sanctioned and delays in payments like the five week wait for Universal Credit.
It is estimated that a £1 increase in the weekly value of main benefits could lead to 84 fewer food parcels a year in a typical local authority.
The most vulnerable are at most risk.
Poverty is rising in the UK. Over 8 million of us live in in-work poverty. That is working households who are struggling to pay for the essentials of life. Rent, energy and food bills.
The majority of people referred to food banks have also experienced a challenging life event. This could be an eviction or household breakdown in the year leading up to using the food bank.
events may increase living costs and make it harder to maintain paid work or to
successfully claim benefits.
of people are more likely to need a food bank. Single mothers are more at
risk. 22% of people at food banks are
single parents, the majority of whom are women.
Almost 75% of people at food banks have a health issue, or live with someone who does.
Mounting debts and bills can be a toxic cocktail, impacting mental health.
More than half of people at food banks live in households affected by a mental health problem, with anxiety and depression the most common. Mental health problems can affect anyone, but add mounting debts and bills and it can be a toxic cocktail.
A quarter of people live in households where
someone has a long-term physical condition. One in six has a physical
disability; and one in 10 has a learning disability. Ill health often increases
living costs and may be a barrier to doing paid work.
The vast majority of people at food banks have either exhausted support from family or friends, were socially isolated, or had family and friends who were not in a financial position to help.
Emma Revie, CEO of the Trussell Trust, said:
“People are being locked into extreme poverty and pushed to the doors of food banks. Hunger in the UK isn’t about food – it’s about people not having enough money. People are trying to get by on £50 a week and that’s just not enough for the essentials, let alone a decent standard of living.
“Any of us could be hit by a health issue or job loss – the difference is what happens when that hits. We created a benefits system because we’re a country that believes in making sure financial support is there for each other if it’s needed. The question that naturally arises, then, is why the incomes of people at food banks are so low, despite being supported by that benefits system?
“Many of us are being left without enough money to cover the most basic costs. We cannot let this continue in our country. This can change – our benefits system could be the key to unlocking people from poverty if our government steps up and makes the changes needed. How we treat each other when life is hard speaks volumes about us as a nation. We can do better than this.”
The Trussell Trust is calling for three key changes as a priority to protect people from hunger.
As an urgent priority, end the five week wait for Universal Credit.
Benefit payments must cover the true cost of living.
Ring fencing and increasing council funding to provide local crisis support.
to the Trussell Trust report, Chair
of the Local Government Association’s Resources Board, Cllr Richard Watts,
“The next government needs to commit to restoring funding to councils for local welfare assistance schemes. And increase the Local Housing Allowance, enabling councils to support tenants at risk of homelessness in the short-term.
And providing the local safety net needed to help those struggling to cope with welfare reforms, including the roll out of Universal Credit.”
“You can read the full report ‘State of Hunger 2019’ here
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