Tens of thousands more Britons will be forced to rely on emergency food hand-outs when the Coalition’s controversial welfare reforms come into force next month, the head of the leading food bank charity has warned.
Chris Mould, the chief executive of the Trussell Trust, said that Iain Duncan-Smith’s policymakers “don’t have an adequate understanding” of the reality of poverty in the UK.
The trust, which manages more than 300 food banks throughout the UK, today launches an appeal for £1m in donations to help it cope with an expected rush on food banks after 1 April – the day that a tranche of changes to welfare come into effect.
Mr Duncan-Smith’s Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) has sought to play down the significance of the rise of food banks, claiming that an explosion in numbers dependent on hand-outs from 29,000 in 2009-10 to nearly 300,000 in 2012-13, is predominately a result of better marketing by the Trussell Trust.
But Mr Mould told The Independent that there was a “very strong link” between real-terms cuts to welfare payments and increasing use of food banks. “When people are on low incomes and just managing to get by, marginal changes that appear to other people to be really quite small, just a few pounds here and there each week, are very significant,” he said. “They can be the difference between getting food on the table or not. People that have been involved in formulating the new welfare policy don’t have an adequate understanding of how precarious the situation for people on low incomes has become.”
From 1 April, annual rises in benefit payments will be cut to an increase of just 1 per cent. On the same day, 660,000 households with a spare room will see an average £14-per-week-cut to their housing benefit with the introduction of the so-called “bedroom tax”. The benefit cap, which is predicted to cost 50,000 households an average of £93 per week when it is rolled out nationwide, will also be trialled in four London boroughs from 1 April.
Volunteers at Trussell Trust have been warned to expect more clients and now the public is being asked to donate “the cost of an Easter egg” to help acquire more emergency food.
A DWP spokesman said that though the Government “recognise[s] the role of voluntary organisations play in helping people in local communities”, benefit payments were high enough to stop people going hungry.