Charity warns of 'worrying trend' in food bank use as half a million emergency food parcels distributed in six months

The Trussell Trust says 188,584 of the emergency parcels went to children

Katie Forster
Tuesday 08 November 2016 01:22
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More than a million emergency food packages were distributed by the Trussell Trust last year
More than a million emergency food packages were distributed by the Trussell Trust last year

The UK’s leading food bank charity distributed more than half a million emergency food parcels over a six-month period this year.

Between April and September 2016, The Trussell Trust gave out 519,342 packages containing three days’ worth of supplies to families and individuals in crisis.

This is a 2.5 per cent increase from the same period the year before. The Trust said around 188,584 of these packages went to children.

The charity said it is on course to distribute a record number of parcels again this financial year in what it described as a “worrying trend” after giving out more than 1,100,000 parcels overall in 2015-16.

Adrian Curtis, The Trussell Trust’s food bank network director, told The Independent many families were under financial pressure and had to make difficult choices as a result.

“Last year was our busiest year ever recorded. It’s a worrying trend that more families and individuals across the UK are still struggling to juggle paying bills and putting food on the table,” he said.

“Our busiest time of year is around Christmas, because of the extra expense, but also because they have to make the choice between putting the heating on or buying food.”

There are more than 400 food banks run by the Trussell Trust (Press Association)

The Wiltshire-based charity blamed benefit delays and changes, such as from reassessments or sanctions, as the biggest reasons for foodbank use – accounting for 44% of referrals to its network.

Low income – driven by problems such as low pay, insecure work or rising costs – accounted for nearly 25% of all referrals to the Trust's foodbanks.

In response, the charity is calling for a hotline to each foodbank's nearest Job Centre Plus, which it says would help people out of a crisis.

The charity said that anecdotal evidence from its network suggests foodbank managers, volunteers and welfare advisers spend a significant amount of time on hold to Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) phone lines on behalf of people in crisis.

“If we’re able to talk to staff at a local job centre, many of these issues can be resolved relatively quickly,” said Mr Curtis.

Around 64,000 households are expected to be affected by a tough new benefit cap which came into force today.

The annual limit on welfare payments to unemployed households has dropped from £26,000 to £23,000 in London and £20,000 outside the capital.

“Reasons for food bank use are complex so it’s misleading to link them to any one issue and the vast majority of benefits are processed on time,“ said a DWP spokesperson.

“We know that work is the best route out of poverty and employment is at a record high.

“But for those who need extra support, we provide a strong safety net through the welfare system, including hardship payments, benefit advances and budgeting loans.”

The Trust has analysed its data and suggests that, on average, people require two food bank referrals in one year so it estimates that 260,000 people have been users in the first six months of this financial year.

People are referred to one of the more than 424 of the Trust's food banks by frontline professionals such as doctors and social workers.

The food in the emergency packages is donated by the public and the food banks are staffed by volunteers.

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