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
Hundreds of North East homeless teenagers are being left to fend for themselves, research shows.
A report, launched by The Children’s Society today, shows that across the region an estimated 300 teenagers aged 16 and 17 ask their local authority for emergency help with housing each year – but almost half are turned away and left to fend for themselves without even having their needs assessed.
The research based on Freedom of Information requests – sent to 353 local councils across England – also reveals that homeless 16-17-year-olds are rarely given the same support as children in care, such as access to an advocate or financial support.
Matthew Reed, chief executive of The Children’s Society, said:
“It is a disgrace that hundreds of vulnerable teenagers, who may have escaped physical or sexual abuse at home, have gone to their council to get help in finding a safe home, only to be turned away.
“These teenagers are being hung out to dry. Few have the money or resources to find new accommodation and their options are limited. At best they might rely on the goodwill of friends or family, at worst they may be forced to return to an unsafe home or to live on the streets. They are facing huge dangers from predators who seek to abuse or exploit them. Councils need to do much more to protect these vulnerable teenagers. Every teenager deserves a safe place to live.”
Research finds that homeless teenagers may be sent back to homes where there is violence or left rootless with no permanent home, facing threats of sexual abuse or being driven into crime.
Councils across England place hundreds of teenagers in Bed and Breakfasts (B&Bs) each year, going against government guidance which regards this type of accommodation as unsuitable.
It has been documented that B&Bs and hostels used to accommodate homeless people are targeted by sexual predators and drug dealers.
Even where teenagers are housed in supported accommodation, the reality is that it may not be suitable as it is not inspected and is unregulated.
The Children’s Society is calling for councils to join up their services and make sure that all teenagers who seek help for homelessness are assessed and given adequate support. They are also calling for B&B accommodation to be banned and hostels and supported accommodation to be regulated.
The charity is lobbying the government to make sure councils identify vulnerable 16 and 17-year-olds seeking help for homelessness, and provide them with flexible support and the same protection as care leavers.
Across England, an estimated 12,000 homeless 16 and 17-year-olds ask councils for help with housing each year – but more than 5,000 are turned away.
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 20 Mar 2015
Parents in the North East are fed up with rip-off school uniform policies, new research reveals.
A report – published by the Children’s Society – reveals families are forking out around £251 per year for each child at a state primary school and £316 for a child at a state secondary.
Across the region, parents are spending an estimated £89.4m per year on school uniforms and accessories.
Parents are so stretched that around 24,000 children in the North East have gone to school in incorrect, unclean or poorly fitting uniform because of the cost, the research shows.
A survey of 1,000 parents found 95% of parents believe the amount they are expected to pay is “unreasonable”.
Last night bosses at the Children’s Society called for action from government to make sure uniforms are more affordable.
Lily Caprani, director of policy and strategy for The Children’s Society, said:
“Parents in the North East are fed up with paying the costs of stringent and prescriptive school uniform requirements that deprive them of the choice to shop around for prices they can afford.
“They are digging ever deeper into their pockets to pay for book bags and blazers when what they really want is for their children to receive a good education and a good start in life.
“We know that children whose parents cannot afford the cost of specialist uniforms face punishment and bullying for not having exactly the right clothes or kit.
“It’s time for the government to introduce legally binding rules to stop schools from making parents pay over the odds for items available only at specialist shops.”
Across the country parents pay about £2.1 billion per year on school uniforms. That is £1.3 billion more than what parents say would be “reasonable”.
In Newcastle, the Children’s Society found that 2,350 parents spend over £8,700 a year on their child’s school uniform.
Meanwhile, in Gateshead 1,804 parents spend over £6,700 on school uniform and in North Tyneside more than 1,900 parents spend £7,200 a year. In South Tyneside 1,300 parents spend £4,893 on their child’s uniform.
In other parts of the region, 2,976 families in Northumberland fork out more than 11,800 on school uniform per year and in Durham 4,490 parents spend a whopping £16,500.
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 03 Mar 2015
This articlewas written by Patrick Butler, social policy editor, for The Guardian on Thursday 18th December 2014
Poverty charities and councils have warned that the government’s refusal to guarantee funding for local welfare schemes will force low income families in crisis to turn to food banks and loan sharks.
The government announced in January that it would no longer provide £180m central funding for local welfare assistance schemes operated by English local authorities after April 2015, triggering a cross-party revolt by Conservative MPs and council leaders, Labour councils and charities.
It is believed that the communities secretary, Eric Pickles, attempted to secure £70m for local welfare to announce in Thursday’s local government finance settlement, but was blocked by the chancellor, George Osborne.
The local government minister Kris Hopkins told the Commons on Thursday that there would be no additional funding for local welfare, although he encouraged councils to make further formal representations, raising faint hopes that the government may revisit the decision in February.
Local welfare provision offers emergency help for a range of vulnerable people who fall into unexpected crisis, including women fleeing domestic violence, homeless people, pregnant mothers, care leavers, pensioners and people suffering from chronic physical and mental health problems.
Some in Whitehall are understood to be concerned that cutting local welfare will provide additional fuel to critics who argue the government does not care about poverty. A cross-party report on food banks this month urged the government to protect local welfare assistance, saying food bank referrals would increase if it was not reinstated.
Hopkins said that although there would be no new funds for local welfare, ministers would outline a notional figure of £130m in the overall grant allocations to councils – a cut of £50m – although this would not be ring-fenced, meaning councils can spend it on other services.
Cllr Andy Hull, Labour-run Islington council’s executive member for finance, called the decision not to provide local welfare funding “an early Christmas present from the government for loan sharks and payday lenders.”
He added: “This safety net supports families to stay together, helps people sustain their tenancies and keeps kids out of care. It is a lifeline, not a luxury. Now, thanks to the government, it lies in shreds.”
The Local Government Association said almost three-quarters of local authorities will abandon or scale back local welfare schemes unless they receive government funding. Two county councils, Nottinghamshire and Oxfordshire, have already closed their schemes.
Alison Garnham, chief executive of Child Poverty Action Group, said:
“In the long-run tax payers will foot a higher bill if low-income families can’t stop a one-off, unforeseen expense from becoming a full-blown crisis – and the human cost will be high. For mothers leaving violent partners or youngsters moving on from homelessness or care, the schemes can make the difference between managing or not.”
Helen Middleton of the Furniture Reuse Network, whose member charities work closely with councils on helping low-income families, said the decision showed the government had “no real understanding of the levels of poverty in this country”.
Homelessness charity Centrepoint said young homeless people used local welfare schemes as a vital safety net:
“It’s completely unacceptable that young people who have fought to turn their lives around after facing homelessness are once again left to sleep on floors for lack of something as basic as a bed.
“Ministers must look carefully at responses from councils to this announcement and consider whether their proposal really reflects the level of poverty in many of our communities.”
Matthew Reed, chief executive of the Children’s Society, said:
“The government’s decision to reduce annual funding from £172m to £130m will make it harder for councils to support vulnerable families facing a crisis. The requirement that town halls fund their schemes from within existing budgets may create a postcode lottery for many families in poverty.”
Source – Welfare Weekly, 18 Dec 2014
This article was written by Patrick Butler, social policy editor, for The Guardian on Wednesday 26th November 2014
A Conservative minister has joined growing Tory opposition to the government’s proposals to slash funding for local welfare assistance, which provides emergency help to Britain’s poorest citizens.
Amber Rudd, the minister for climate change, said she had been “fighting” to persuade the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to reinstate the £180m a year funding for local authority welfare schemes.
Local welfare assistance, which replaced the old nationally run social fund 18 months ago, provides “safety net” support for low-income families tipped into sudden crisis as a result of homelessness, domestic violence, flooding, illness or sudden financial setback.
Rudd, the MP for Hastings, and a former Treasury whip, is the most senior Tory politician to demand the government reverse plans to scrap central funding for local welfare schemes from this April.
She told BBC Radio Sussex: “We all locally who care about the most vulnerable in society are fighting very strongly to make sure the government reconsiders.”
Separately, Tory-run Essex county council has written to ministers to warn the proposed cut would leave vulnerable people without help and at the mercy of loan sharks.
The council’s leader, David Finch, said:
“I want ministers in London to think again and keep funding in place because the consequences of families going through crisis for longer will be far more expensive.”
Other senior Tories who oppose the scrapping of local welfare funding include: Keith Glazier, the leader of East Sussex county council; David Hodge, the leader of Surrey county council; Sir Merrick Cockell, a former leader of the Local Government Association (LGA); and Louise Goldsmith, the leader of West Sussex county council, who has call the plans as “a cut too far”.
A decision on the future of local welfare funding is expected in December alongside the local government funding settlement.
Rudd accused the DWP and the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) of trying to offload accountability for local welfare on to each other, and promised to “hold ministers’ feet to the fire so that somebody takes responsibility for it”.
Although Rudd said she believed that local government needed to make cuts, it was “too hard” on councils to be expected to run local welfare assistance schemes without separate DWP funding. Councils have experienced an average 37% cut in budgets over the course of this parliament, with more financial pain to come.
The government insists councils can continue to fund local welfare from within their central grant. But the LGA has warned that withdrawal of funding will mean one in six councils will be forced to decommission their schemes, leaving tens of thousands of families without state help.
In a joint letter to ministers with the charities Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG), the Children’s Society and Crisis, the LGA says that scrapping local welfare “will have an acute impact on vulnerable residents and their children and will mean they have nowhere to turn in their time of greatest need”.
Naomi Ridley of Hastings Furniture Service, a charity which has worked closely with other Sussex charities to win cross-party support to save local welfare funding, praised Rudd’s intervention:
“We enthusiastically welcome the support of a government minister for the campaign, and hope she can convince her colleagues that abolishing the fund is a terrible, short-sighted mistake with vicious consequences.”
Charities which work with families in poverty have also stepped up pressure on ministers to protect local welfare funding. The work and pensions secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, was told during an official visit to a charity “furniture bank” in Ipswich last week that his proposals would penalise the most vulnerable members of society.
> Like his decisions so far haven’t ?
The Furniture Re-Use Network whose 250 members have seen requests for help for secondhand goods, such as beds and fridges, rocket during the past 18 months, said councils were failing to keep pace with an explosion in poverty. It accused ministers of ”having no idea of the scale of unrecorded need of in-crisis households.”
The DWP announced in January that it would stop funding local welfare assistance after 2015, despite promising during the passage of the Welfare Reform Act in 2012 that it would conduct a review of the policy before making a decision.
After being threatened with court action over this decision by Islington council and CPAG, however, the government promised in September to reconsider its position and issued a consultation.
The consultation, which closed on Friday, has been criticised because none of the three choices offered to consultees involve continued funding. The housing charity Shelter called it “a cheap pavement shuffle cup trick”.
The Guardian’s investigation of the scheme in April found widespread chaos: in many councils local welfare was underspent, under-advertised and underused. Record numbers of families needing help were turned away and “pushed into the arms of payday lenders and loan sharks”.
A government spokesperson said:
“The changes made to funding of local welfare provision were never about abolishing support and it’s a total misrepresentation to suggest they were.
“This government has given councils more control because they understand
best their local area’s needs – this is in contrast to the previous
centralised grant system which was inflexible and poorly targeted.
“We have completed a consultation on how funding should be provided for 2015/16 and will publish the results shortly.”
Source – Welfare Weekly, 26 Nov 2014
Families in crisis will have nowhere to turn when a £10m emergency fund for the region is axed within months, campaigners warn today.
The Children’s Society raises the alarm over Government plans to scrap ‘local welfare assistance schemes’ – seen as a last lifeline to stop vulnerable people falling into debt and destitution.
The cash – administered by local authorities – is helping an estimated 80,000 people across the North-East and North Yorkshire in this financial year, the organisation said.
Some are women fleeing domestic violence, who desperately need money quickly to buy an oven for their new home.
Other grants are given to parents so they can visit their sick child in hospital, or to struggling families when they face an emergency cost such as a broken boiler.
But the funding will be withdrawn from next April, under proposals put forward by the department for work and pensions (DWP) expected to be confirmed in the New Year.
Ministers say local councils can fund the schemes themselves – but those councils must themselves find billions of pounds of savings, amid huge cuts to their Whitehall grants.
Matthew Reed, The Children’s Society chief executive, said:
“This is a cut too far.
“Without these schemes, families will have to choose between going without basic essentials to keep their family safe and healthy – such as food or heating – and turning to high cost credit or payday loans, plunging them into a debt trap.”
Durham County Council – which will lose £407,270, if the plans go ahead – said it had not yet drawn up proposals to plug the gap.
Roger Goodes, head of policy, said:
“We are looking at how we might be able to continue to support people, should funding be withdrawn.
“Once the funding situation is confirmed, we would expect to develop detailed proposals which would be put to members of the council’s Cabinet for consideration.”
> Why didn’t he just say “no idea” ?
But a DWP spokeswoman insisted it was not planning to end support, but giving councils greater freedom how to spend funds from Whitehall.
“This Government is giving councils more control because they understand best their local area’s needs. This is in contrast to the old centralised grant system that was poorly targeted.”
The estimate that almost 80,000 people in the region are currently receiving help is based on the average grant of £124.
Source – Northern Echo, 07 Nov 2014
Almost 20,000 Wearside families are struggling with the cost of sending their children to school, a new report has revealed.
Every year parents are forking out an average of £770 per child to meet the basic needs of their child’s schooling, according to a study published today by the Children’s Commission on Poverty.
Backed by the Children’s Society, the report found 78 per cent of parents in the North East are struggling to meet the costs of school clothing, sports kits, school meals, trips, books, materials for classes, stationery, computers for homework, travel to and from school and summer clubs or activities.
Collectively, Sunderland parents are spending £26,899,261 on meeting school costs and 19,303 families are struggling, according to the report.
Sharon Hodgson, MP for Wasington and Sunderland West, said:
“Schools have a growing responsibility to ensure that the significant disadvantages that their pupils face because of poverty are addressed, and they now have significant funding through the pupil premium to help them do that.
“Practical steps could be making sure that uniforms are generic so they can be bought cheaply in supermarkets, running breakfast clubs so that children who don’t get fed on a morning aren’t prevented from learning by hunger, or homework clubs so that children can use computers and other resources they might not have at home.
“Child poverty is a millstone around the neck of children throughout the rest of their lives, and it benefits us all to do everything we can to alleviate its symptoms as soon as possible.”
The Children’s Commission on Poverty, a panel of children aged 10-19 from across England, found the costs are not only affecting family finances, but also harming the wellbeing of the poorest children.
It discovered more than half of the poorest families are borrowing money to pay for essential school items, almost two-thirds of children living in the poorest families are embarrassed as a result of not being able to afford key aspects of school and more than 25 per cent said this had led them to being bullied.
Across County Durham, parents spent £47,073,023 on school costs, with 34,702 families classed as struggling.
The report also found that a third of children living in the poorest families had fallen behind at school because their family couldn’t afford the computer or internet facilities.
Matthew Reed, Chief Executive of The Children’s Society, said:
“Children are being penalised and denied their right to an equal education simply because their parents cannot afford the basics. This is just not right.
“The Government needs to listen to this crucial report by young commissioners and act to make sure no child is stopped from getting an education equal to their peers. It must stop children from being made to suffer because they are living in poverty.”
Source – Sunderland Echo, 29 Oct 2014
Up to 212,000 people have been ‘beaten up for being on benefits’ as a direct result of the despicable ‘scrounger’ rhetoric in the media and ‘poverty porn’ TV programmes, a shocking new survey reveals today.
A survey by YouGov reveals the devastating impact of newspaper benefits propaganda, and ‘poverty porn’ programmes like Channel 4’s Benefits Street, on some of Britain’s poorest and most vulnerable citizens.
YouGov asked 2,352 benefit claimants:
“Have you ever been verbally or physically abused because you are on benefits?”
15% said they had experienced verbal abuse and 4% admitted they had been physically assaulted.
If the survey had asked every single benefit claimant in the UK it would suggest that nearly 212,000 have been physically assaulted.
6% of respondents said their children had been victims of bullies, while 16% said they had been turned down for a home for being in receipt of benefits.
Campaigners and charities are now calling on the media and the government to end their use of socially divisive language, which is turning British society against itself.
Philipp Newis from the Who Benefits? campaign told the Daily Mirror:
“We’ve heard a lot of negative talk from politicians about benefit claimants, even though these are people who might need support for all sorts of reasons.
“Around 4.3million families receiving benefits are in work, but earning too little to get by.
“Many others are ill, caring for a loved one or have lost their job. It could happen to any one of us.”
The survey was carried out by YouGov on behalf of a number of charities including Gingerbread, MIND and the Children’s Society.
Its findings will be sent to a report which is investigating whether benefit claimants are being treated like second-class citizens.
Source – Welfare News Service, 09 Sept 2014
Thousands of Sunderland children are living in families trapped by debt, a new report says.
The figures, released by The Children’s Society and debt charity StepChange, show a third of households in Wearside are forced to borrow money to pay for essential bills.
More than 5,200 families in the city – 15 per cent of the total – are failing to keep up with household bills and loan repayments.
It means an estimated 7,471 Sunderland children are living in families with problem debt, with each struggling family behind on payments by an average of £1,669.
Across the city, families owe a total of £8,716,944 in bills and loans.
In Durham City and Easington, the problem affects 2,957 families, with 4,970 children, and a total of £4,934,526 is owed in debts.
The charities’ report, The Debt Trap: Exposing the impact of problem debt on children, claims family debt causes youngsters to suffer from worry and anxiety, experience bullying and miss out on essentials.
The Children’s Society chief executive, Matthew Reed, said: “This research exposes the shocking reality of parents lying awake at night worrying and unhappy children going without.
“Many families are feeling the squeeze, and parents struggling on low wages are battling just to pay the bills.”
In Sunderland, Pallion Action Group has seen a surge in requests for debt advice since the welfare reform capped benefits at £26,000, and now helps between 100 and 175 people each month.
Money and debt advisor David Brass said the majority of those he deals with owe money to utility companies or have rent and council tax arrears.
He said: “We don’t see so many with credit cards, store cards and loans anymore. What we are seeing is people who cannot pay their gas or electricity bills.”
Most advice he gives involves identifying priority debts, like rent and council tax, over general credit debts, then working out a budget and sticking to it.
“Luxuries go out the window,” he said. “That means losing your Sky TV and non-essentials like home insurance. They have to try and maximise their income and minimise expenditure.
“As long as they keep a roof over their head and food on the table, that’s our job done. We give food parcels out as well. A loaf of bread can make a big difference to someone who is desperate.”
The centre gives out about 25 food parcels a week through its partnership with Sainsbury’s, Mr Brass said.
He said he would encourage parents to tell children, especially teenagers, about money problems, as muns and dads are often under pressure to buy expensive gadgets or designer clothing.
“Many parents get into debt because they do not want to see their children go without, so it is important that they understand the pressures,” he added.
“Most parents always make sure children are clothed and have school uniforms. There are one or two who really struggle who can’t afford the uniforms.”
The Children’s Society and StepChange are calling on the Government to consider a “breathing space” scheme to give struggling families an extended period of protection from additional charges, further interest and enforcement action.
Also, review whether the protection for children against the harm caused by debt collection is working; provide earlier and wider access to debt support and advice, and impose tighter restrictions on advertising loans to youngsters.
Source – Sunderland Echo, 12 Aug 2014