Record numbers of starving people are turning to food banks to help feed themselves and their families, shocking new figures reveal.
More than one million people received three-days worth of emergency food from the charity Trussell Trust in the year 2014/15, compared to more than 900,000 in the previous year.
The figures published by the Trussell Trust, supported by the Faculty of Health and Children’s Society, reveal the unquestionable reality of food poverty in Britain today – and the plight faced by so many families struggling to make ends meet.
A total of 1,084,604 people were given food parcels by the charity in the last year, including 396,997 hungry children – up 19% from 2013/14.
Meanwhile, the total number of food banks launched by Trussell Trust rose by just 5%, quashing claims made by some government ministers that rising food bank use is linked to the increased availability of ‘free food’.
Benefit delays and sanctions remain the largest driver of food bank use, but the figures also suggest that there has been a significant rise in the number of people on low-incomes requiring food aid.
Low-income referrals to Trussell Trust food banks, just one of many charities and organisations supporting the poorest in society, has grown by 20% since 2013/14.
The number of people citing benefit delays and changes as the main reason for turning to food banks has decreased slightly from 48% to 44%.
Referrals due to sickness, homelessness, delayed wages and unemployment have also increased slightly.
According to Trussell Trust, 10,280 tonnes of food were donated by the public last year.
A recent survey of 86 food banks provided greater clarity as to why people are turning to food banks. The main reasons given were low income, delays in benefit payments, sanctions and debt.
Mother of two, Susan says:
“I have an 18 month old son and an eight year old stepson, I work part time as a teacher and my husband has an insecure agency contract.
“There are times when he doesn’t get enough hours of work, and we really struggle to afford food and pay the bills. The food bank meant we could put food on the table.”
Trussell Trust UK food bank director Adrian Curtis said:
“Despite welcome signs of economic recovery, hunger continues to affect significant numbers of men, women and children in the UK today.
“It’s difficult to be sure of the full extent of the problem as Trussell Trust figures don’t include people who are helped by other food charities or those who feel too ashamed to seek help.”
Trussell Trust draws attention to the tragic story of a mum who was skipping meals to feed her children. “There are people out there more desperate than me. I’ve got a sofa to sell before I’ll go to the food bank”, she says.
“It’s a pride thing. You don’t want people to know you’re on benefits.”
Adrian Curtis continues:
“Trussell Trust food banks are increasingly hosting additional services like debt counselling and welfare advice at our food banks, which is helping more people out of crisis.
“The Trussell Trust’s latest figures highlight how vital it is that we all work to prevent and relieve hunger in the UK.
“It’s crucial that we listen to the experiences of people using food banks to truly understand the nature of the problems they face; what people who have gone hungry have to say holds the key to finding the solution”
Marcella, a former dental assistant recovering from a spinal operation, was helped by a food bank and said:
“It’s so hard to pay rent and survive at the moment. I have friends who are working minimum wage jobs who have had to go to food banks.
“People should not just be surviving, they should be able to live and have a life. I was less than surviving when I went to the food bank.
“Going to a food bank was very emotional for me, I felt a bit ashamed at not being able to support myself but they took the pressure off, they gave me advice and helped me to find a support worker.
“The food bank gave me faith that there are people who understand and who you can trust. We need to stop judging people and listen to every individual and understand how they got into the situation.”
Dr John Middleton, Vice President of Faculty of Public Health said:
“The rising number of families and individuals who cannot afford to buy sufficient food is a public health issue that we must not ignore.
“For many people, it is not a question of eating well and eating healthily, it is a question of not being able to afford to eat at all.
“UK poverty is already creating massive health issues for people today, and if we do not tackle the root causes of food poverty now we will see it affecting future generations too.
“The increased burden of managing people’s health will only increase if we do not address the drivers of people to food banks.”
Over 90% of Trussell Trust food banks provide additional services alongside food to help people out of crisis long-term.
Source – Welfare Weekly, 22 Apr 2015
This article was written by Daniel Boffey, for The Observer on Saturday 22nd November 2014 20.28 UTC
The coalition’s record on low pay has come under attack as new figures revealed that not a single company has been prosecuted in the past year for paying less than the national minimum wage. Despite ministers’ claims that the government is getting tough on under-payers, the last successful criminal prosecution was in February 2013.
That was one of only two prosecutions during the government’s entire term of office to date, according to figures given to parliament. The cases involved the imposition of fines to the value of £3,696 on an opticians in Manchester and £1,000 on a security company in London.
The Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings for the Office for National Statistics recently found that about 287,000 workers were paid at less than the minimum wage in 2012, although the TUC puts the figure closer to 350,000.
Chris Mould, chairman of the Trussell Trust, the charity that runs 400 emergency food banks, said that the increasing numbers of people attending its facilities was clear evidence that ministers needed to do more to protect people who were living “on the edge”.
The number of people helped by Trussell Trust food banks in the first half of the 2014-15 financial year is 38% higher than in the same period last year. The trust reported this weekend that 492,641 people were given three days’ food and support, including 176,565 children, between April and September. That compared with 355,982 during the same period in the previous year.
Problems with the social security system continued to be the biggest overall trigger for food bank use (45%), of which “benefit delays” accounted for 30% of referrals, and “benefit changes” 15%, according to the charity.
However, an emerging trend, according to the charity, is that 22% of those helped were referred because of “low income” compared with 16% of referrals in the same period last year – meaning 51,000 more people were referred to a food bank due to low income.
“It is up to the democratically elected parliament to make some decisions and one route is to make it less easy for people to be exploited at the bottom of the labour market. We see people forced to cycle in and out of poverty and they are so close to the edge that it is easy for them to slip under.”
HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) said that it prosecutes the most serious breaches of the national minimum wage “and where there is clear evidence to do so”. A spokesman said the average cost of a successful prosecution was around £50,000 and that HMRC believed it was preferable to recoup wages for workers through civil penalty powers. In 2013-14, HMRC conducted 1,455 investigations and issued 652 financial penalties.
But the shadow business secretary, Chuka Umunna MP, said that the coalition was not taking the action needed to enforce the minimum wage. Failing to pay the minimum wage was made a criminal offence in 2007. Under Labour, seven organisations were prosecuted, including Torbay council.
“The national minimum wage is one of Labour’s proudest achievements in government and it has made a huge contribution to making work pay, boosting living standards and tackling in-work poverty.
“It is clear that the Tory-led government is not going to take the action needed to properly enforce the minimum wage – so that is why Labour is clear that we need to see higher penalties for rogue companies who don’t pay employees the minimum wage and far more effective enforcement, including by giving local authorities new powers.“
An HMRC spokesman said that the number of staff enforcing the minimum wage now stood at 194 – 40 more than in 2009-10. He said:
“Paying less than the minimum wage is illegal and, as HMRC’s record shows, if employers break the law they will face tough consequences. We conducted 1,455 investigations in 2013-14, securing over £4.6m in wage arrears for over 22,000 workers.
“The vast majority of national minimum wage cases are dealt with using civil penalty powers, as this route is usually the most appropriate, ensures workers receive the wages they’re due, and provides the most cost-effective resolution for taxpayers. However, in more severe cases, HMRC will take criminal action and seek a prosecution.”
Source – Welfare Weekly, 22 Nov 2014
Hunger is sweeping the region and the austerity-driven Government is relying too heavily on volunteers to help – that was the message food poverty investigators heard yesterday.
Members of the all-party Parliamentary Inquiry into Hunger and Food Poverty were at the centre of a packed room at South Shields’ St Jude’s Parish Hall to find out why there is a rising tide of foodbank use here.
The touring inquiry, which meets with policy-makers in London next, heard how foodbank use has tripled since 2008 in some areas. Calls are now ringing out for the Coalition to act.
> They have acted. The state we’re in now is exactly what they wanted. It must be – they surely couldn’t be so stupid as to think that austerity and cuts would result in anything else.
Could they ? I don’t know which I’d find worse – malevolent intent or incredible ignorance on that scale.
Bishop Mark Bryant, the Bishop of Jarrow, has been campaigning on the issue. When asked if the church is being asked to step in where the welfare state previously had, he said: “That is undoubtedly true.
“Even with the welfare state it is good that, as a society, we do things that enable us to care for each other, but it is certainly true that the church and other men and women of goodwill are picking up things that we never thought would be necessary two or three years ago.”
The Reverend Roy Merrin, of Grange Road Baptist Church in Jarrow, said: “Politicians themselves need to recognise their responsibility and not look to the voluntary sector for sticking plasters for what are structural problems in our society.”
Peter MacLellan, director of the Trussell Trust’s County Durham Foodbank, said: “I think it is a scandal. I’m encouraged by people’s generosity but of course we should not have to do this.
“I think there will always be a need for foodbanks but the scale we have them on at the moment is nonsense.”
Jean Burnside, chief officer for South Tyneside Churches’ Key Project, said it gave out 26 food parcels in 2008, but last year was called on for 339 and so far this year had given out 222 packs.
“There has been a massive increase,” she said. “There is a variety of reasons for that, including the Bedroom Tax, benefit sanctions and high unemployment.
“I want these politicians to know what it is like here in the North East.
“The Government needs to know that the system isn’t working. There have been so many cuts and the people at the Department for Work and Pensions can’t provide advice for us so what chance do our clients have? Something needs to change.”
Veteran Merseyside MP Frank Field is leading on the inquiry and will now hold a series of meetings in London on food poverty across the UK now.
He said he had been shocked by the scale of the problem in the North East, also describing it as a “scandal”.
“The economy needs to be run differently and we need more jobs at the bottom and the people to do them,” he said.
“We are hearing about low wages, benefit delays and benefit sanctions and some people not getting their benefits at all.
“People don’t want this to be a long-term solution, they say they don’t want foodbanks to exist.”
> Frank Field – why do I not trust the bugger ? A member of the advisory board of the free-market think tank Reform, and of the generally conservative but also pro-freedom of speech magazine Standpoint.
In May 2008, he said that Margaret Thatcher “is certainly a hero” and that “I still see Mrs T from time to time – I always call her ‘Mrs T‘, when I talk to her.“
Although there have been attempts to get him to defect to the Conservatives, they have been without success (possibly he thinks Labour is moving to the right anyway, so why bother).
In 2008, Frank Field was named as the 100th most-influential right-winger in the United Kingdom by the Telegraph.
Field supports the return of national service to tackle growing unemployment and instil “a sense of order and patriotism” in Britain’s young men and women.
Field is a practising Anglican, a former chairman of the Churches Conservation Trust, and a member of the Church of England General Synod.
Field believes in reducing the time-limit with which women can have an abortion,and in stripping abortion providers such as Marie Stopes of their counselling role and handing it to organisations not linked to abortion clinics.
Oh yeah – I remember now why I don’t trust the bugger.
Source – Newcastle Journal, 04 July 2014
Families are being forced into taking payday loans to cope with benefit delays, a city advice group has warned.
Newcastle Citizens Advice Bureau says the region has seen a 206% increase in the number of Job Seeker’s Allowance cases in just one year after Government rules came in which see benefits stopped as punishment for not finding a job.
While ministers say they want to force people to take job hunting seriously, the bureau says the strict new regime is having a different impact.
Shona Alexander, chief executive of Newcastle CAB, said that the longer minimum sanction period – when people are left without the financial support of their benefit – is having a counter-productive effect.
Claimants are distracted from job hunting as they focus on putting food on the table and keeping a roof over their head.
She added: “We see people here every day who have had their benefits sanctioned and who are desperate for money.
“They are often forced into the hands of payday lenders, which only make things worse.
“Sanctions often have a negative effect on our clients’ mental health. Being sanctioned can actually put someone further away from the workplace.
“They’re so busy trying to put food on the table and worrying about debts that they can’t look for a job.
“Some people don’t even know when they’ve been sanctioned, so by the time the money stops there’s no time for emergency budgeting, challenging the sanction or applying for hardship payments.
“For the first week they’ll struggle to get by, scraping up every penny.
“The second week they might borrow from family or friends, but by the third week they are desperate, and that’s when they come to us.”
In the North East, around 13% of those seeking work have had their benefits docked as a punishment for mistakes such as turning down an interview.
The extra pressure and financial burden caused by sanctions means parents struggle to put food on the table, pushing people further into debt and impacting upon their health.
The Government has previously defended the move, with employment minister Esther McVey saying: “Sanctions are used as a deterrent. The vast, vast majority of people don’t get sanctions.
“When you get Job Seeker’s Allowance – there’s a clue there in the name, job seeker’s allowance – you are paid that to make sure you are doing all you can do to get a job.”
More than £7m is thought to have been spent on appeal tribunals.
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle 22 April 2014