Almost 50% of referrals to food banks in the UK are due to 'issues with the welfare system'

Graph released by the Trussell Trust shows that 29% of referrals were the result of benefit delays, while benefit changes accounted for over 15% of visits

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The Independent Online

A leading food bank charity has highlighted the top 13 reasons that people seek food aid, as a landmark report published today calls for a new movement to end food poverty in Britain.

The Trussell Trust released a graph that showed that nearly half of all referrals to their food banks between April and September 2014 were due to welfare failures as the ‘Feeding Britain’ cross-party inquiry called for significant changes in handling welfare.

Foodbank Director for The Trussell Trust Adam Curtis told The Independent: “Just under half our referrals are just because of issues with the welfare system.”

The results come from a voucher checklist filled by every person who uses one of the 400 Trussell Trust-run food banks nationally. The results found that benefit delays accounted for 29.54 per cent of all referrals, benefit changes accounted for over 15 per cent of referrals.

Mr Curtis claimed that his organisation had witnessed an increase in the proportion of people at food banks because of the implement of some of the changes to the welfare system, estimating “an increase of around 80 per cent” in referrals “as a result of sanctioning.”

“We’d like a more careful and thoughtful approach to sanctions to make sure that people are not sanctioned unnecessarily or carelessly,” he said.

Mr Curtis’ remarks were support by the Feeding Britain’s report findings, which criticised the “sometimes heavy-handed” issuing of benefits sanctions, suggesting the government adopt a system that is better able to differentiate between those wilfully disregarding and those misunderstanding the complex sytem.

Although many referrals were due to welfare changes, low incomes were also cited as the next biggest reason for people seeking help: roughly 22 per cent of individuals at food banks were struggling to buy food despite being in full or partial employment.

Trussell Trust Chief Executive David McAuley said: “Incomes for the poorest have not been increasing in line with inflation and many, whether in low paid work or on welfare, are not yet seeing the benefits of economic recovery.

“Instead, they are living on a financial knife edge where one small change in circumstances or a ‘life shock’ can force them into a crisis where they cannot afford to eat.”

A government spokesperson said in a statement: “This report is a serious contribution to an important debate, with many good ideas, and recognising that the reasons behind demands for emergency food assistance are complex and frequently overlapping.

"As a country we have enough food to go around, and we agree that it is wrong that anyone should go hungry at the same time as surplus food is going to waste. There is a moral argument as well as a sustainability one to ensure we make the best use of resources."

‘Feeding Britain ‘inquiry makes a number of key recommendations including: that a national organisation is created to cope with food poverty; the welfare system is improved in order to better differentiate and help claimants; better education for parents and extending the reach of the Trouble Families programme to stop children coming to schools hungry.

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