Tagged: food bank

Fuel Banks Pilot Scheme Aims To Address Austerity-Era Dilemma Of ‘Heat Or Eat’

Families in poverty who are forced to switch off their gas and electricity supply because they are unable afford spiralling energy bills will be offered free charity fuel vouchers under a pilot scheme. The so-called “fuel banks” initiative will provide a £49 credit for struggling families who use prepayment meters in a move designed to address the austerity-era dilemma of “heat or eat”. It is being run by energy firm nPower and poverty charities including the food bank network Trussell Trust.

The vouchers, which will provide enough credit to restore power, and keep lights and heating on for up to two weeks, will be available to people in crisis referred to food banks by welfare advice agencies, GPs and social workers.

Labour MP Frank Field, who has campaigned against fuel and food poverty through his all-party Feeding Britain initiative, described the scheme as an “important breakthrough” that would help families who face an agonising choice between putting money in the gas meter or food on the table.

But critics said it was a public relations move that could not substitute for low wages and cuts to the welfare state hardship funds, or distract from the “profiteering” fuel prices charged by the Big Six energy firms – including npower.

Inability to afford even switch on the cooker or heat bathwater has been a striking feature of poverty in the UK in recent years, as low-income households struggle to cope with shrinking wages, rising living costs and welfare cuts such as the bedroom tax.

Last year it emerged that Trussell’s food banks were issuing special “kettle box” food parcels designed for clients who could not afford to cook, or in extreme cases, “cold box” parcels for those who could not even afford to heat water.

The fuel bank scheme is explicilty aimed at households who “self-disconnect” from prepayment meters to save money. Research by the Citizens Advice Bureau suggests more than 1.6 million people go without electricity or gas every year in the UK.

The scheme, which will be available to all referred people, not just npower customers, will be piloted in 21 locations across County Durham, Kingston-upon-Thames and Gloucester. If deemed successful, npower will roll out the initiative nationwide, with the aim of support up to 13,000 households in the first year.

The vouchers will be distributed using Trussell’s food bank protocols, to individuals and families referred to them after being identified by professionals as being “in crisis”. Clients would be allowed three fuel vouchers in a year.

David McAuley, chief executive of the trust, said:

“In many cases people coming to food banks can be facing financial hardship that leaves them both hungry and in fuel poverty. By providing npower fuel bank vouchers at food banks, we can make sure that people who are most vulnerable are not only given three days’ food, but can turn on the energy supply to cook it and heat their homes too.”

Matthew Cole, npower’s head of policy and obligations, said the energy company had always worked hard to help its most vulnerable customers:

“It [the fuel bank scheme] will provide immediate and hassle free support to households where often the choice is between food or warmth.”

Matthew Cole of the Fuel Poverty Action campaign said:

“These fuel banks will do nothing to hide the harmful actions of the Big Six, including home break-ins to install unwanted prepayment meters, visits by bailiffs, and energy supply disconnections to vulnerable households.

“Our current, for-profit energy system is broken – only an affordable, public, and renewable energy system will make a meaningful difference to those affected by fuel poverty and energy debt. With the huge majority of public opinion in favour of public energy, it’s no wonder the Big Six are trying to improve their image.”

The Trussell trust, which this week announced that its 445 food banks distributed enough emergency food to feed almost 1.1 million people for three days last year, said that it was looking to create more business partnerships. It already has a food collection partnership with Tesco.

Source – The Guardian, 23 Apr 2015

More than 4,500 Hartlepool families get emergency supplies from foodbanks as cases increase

Thousands of Hartlepool families have been given vital help following heartfelt pleas to a foodbank.

Hartlepool Foodbank gave 4,222 people three days of emergency food in 2014-15, compared to 4783 in 2013-14.

The figures included 1,147 children getting help from the foodbank.

Bosses at the foodbank, which is one of 400 nationally run by the Trussell Trust, have praised communities for helping the cause, which saw people in Hartlepool donate 38 tonnes of food.

 The foodbank was also boosted by 50 people to volunteered to help others.

The top three reasons for foodbank referrals were benefit delay 33 per cent, low income 25 per cent and benefit changes 11 per cent.

A spokesman for the Trussell Trust said:

“Thanks to the generous donations from members of the public Hartlepool Foodbank is often able to provide some basic toiletries in addition to the emergency food, to families who are at struggling point, as well as signposting them to other services in the local area.

“Many Trussell Trust foodbanks, including Hartlepool Foodbank, are partnering with other agencies to provide additional services such as welfare advice, budgeting help and debt support from their premises, helping people to break out of crisis.”

Nationally last year 1,084,604 people – including 396,997 children – received three days’ food from the Trussell Trust’s network of foodbanks in 2014/15, compared with 913,138 in the 2013/14 financial year, an increase of 19 per cent.

Trussell Trust UK foodbank 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.

Adrian Curtis added: “Trussell Trust foodbanks are increasingly hosting additional services like debt counselling and welfare advice at our foodbanks, 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 foodbanks 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.”

Source – Hartlepool Mail,  23 Apr 2015

Food Banks Concentrated In Areas Hit Hardest By Benefit Sanctions, Study Finds

> Coming soon – the Pope is a Catholic, study finds….

Austerity policies such as cuts to welfare and local services are driving the rapid spread of food banks in the UK, according to an academic study.

The Oxford University research shows emergency food aid is most concentrated in areas where there are high levels of joblessness and benefit sanctions.

The Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition persistently refused to acknowledge a link between its economic and social security policies and the explosion in food banks.

But the Oxford study, published in the British Medical Journal, shows demand for food parcels is strongest where poverty is accompanied by restrictions on, and reductions in, social assistance.

It concludes:

“More food banks are opening in areas experiencing greater cuts in spending on local services and central welfare benefits and higher unemployment rates.”

The study, which uses data supplied by the UK’s biggest food bank network, the Trussell Trust, finds food banks operated in 20 UK council areas in 2009-10. By 2013-14 they existed in 251 areas.

At the same time, the rate of food aid distribution tripled between 2010 and 2013 from about 0.6 food parcels per 100 people to 2.2 per 100.

There were stark variations between local areas, from a low of less than 0.1 food parcels per 100 people in Lichfield, Staffordshire, to a high of eight parcels per 100 in Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

These in part reflected the fact that some areas had more or longer-established food banks, the study found.

Even taking this into account, higher rates of food parcel distribution were still “significantly associated” with welfare cuts and austerity measures.

In particular, the prevalence in an area of benefit sanctions – where unemployed claimants who do not meet jobcentre rules have their payments stopped for at least four weeks – was a strong indicator of food parcel use.

The study says:

“The rise in food bank use is … concentrated in communities where more people are experiencing benefit sanctions.

“Food parcel distribution is higher in areas where food banks are more common and better established, but our data also show that the local authorities with greater rates of sanctions and austerity are experiencing greater rates of people seeking emergency food assistance.”

A spokesperson for the Department for Work and Pensions said:

“The government spends £94bn a year on working-age benefits and provides a wide range of advice and assistance for anyone in need of additional support.

“The vast majority of benefits are processed on time with improvements being made year on year and the number of sanctions has actually gone down.”

The lead author of the study, Rachel Loopstra, said it was likely to have “underestimated the true burden of food insecurity in the UK” because food aid provision is patchy and data collection is relatively crude.

She called for further research to capture the full extent of food insecurity and food bank use in the UK. One of the last acts of the coalition was to reject a cross-party call for the government to collect robust data on food poverty.

The study is the latest in a string of separate reports linking welfare reform to food bank use, from poverty charities, churches, MPs, and food banks.

Source – The Guardian, 09 Apr 2015

Labour Pledges To End Dependency On Food Banks With Welfare Reforms

A Labour government would tackle the root causes of the increase in the use of food banks across the UK, with the party to pledge that they “can never be allowed to become a permanent feature of British society”.

Shadow ministers will promise to solve jobcentre benefit delays, halt the proliferation of benefit sanctions, and address low pay in a five-point plan aimed at reducing the number of people forced to turn to food banks.

They will cite Trussell Trust statistics showing that nearly a million people used food banks in 2013-14, figures that are generally assumed to underestimate the number of people who went hungry as a result of food insecurity over the period.

Labour will promise a cross-government approach to end what it calls the “chaos of food policy” under the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition, and will say that a Labour administration will make tackling food bank dependency a specific ministerial responsibility.

A target would be set to reduce the number of people who cite delays in benefits being processed as the prime reason for using food banks. Benefits typically take around 16 working days to process, although backlogs mean many disability benefit claimants have waited for several months.

Studies have shown that benefit sanctions – when payments are stopped for alleged rule infringements – are the prime reason for between 10% and 30% of food bank users being referred for food aid.

Labour says it will abolish jobcentre targets for increasing sanctions, and make hardship funds more quickly available for those who are sanctioned. The party has a longstanding commitment to abolish the bedroom tax, which is also driving food bank use in some areas of the UK.

It has also promised to address low pay, by raising the minimum wage to at least £8 an hour before 2020, promoting a Living Wage and ending zero-hours contracts, so that working people do not suffer the humiliation of being referred to food banks to put meals on the table.

The plan is a clear statement from Labour that it considers welfare reforms to be the biggest single driver of food bank use, a connection the government has always strenuously denied.

The shadow environment, food and rural affairs secretary, Maria Eagle, will say in a visit to a London food bank on Wednesday:

“The Tories’ attitude to the relentless rise in hunger in Britain speaks volumes for who they stand up for. They refuse to accept any responsibility for it, despite the fact their policies are making it worse.

“Labour will take a strategic and joined-up approach to food policy to ensure that everybody has the chance to eat safe, nutritious and affordable food, now and in the future. Emergency food aid should remain just that – food banks can never be allowed to become a permanent feature of British society.”

Numerous studies by charities and academics in the past 18 months have linked welfare reform, austerity and the shrinking of the welfare safety net to the rise in poverty and food bank use. Food banks were practically unknown in the UK five years ago, when the coalition was formed.

However, ministers have insisted there is no robust evidence that social security policy has triggered the rise in food bank use. The welfare minister, Lord Freud, argued that food bank use had expanded because charity food parcels were “free”.

The Trussell Trust, which runs 420 food banks across the UK, is committed to reducing the number of people needing to use them, but its policy is to keep a “safety net” service in place in each major town.

Source – The Guardian, 25 Mar 2015

Long-Term Food Bank Users Risk Nutritional Problems

Families who rely too heavily on food banks may suffer nutritional deficiencies because so much of the produce is processed rather than fresh, it has been claimed.

Mel Wakeman, a senior lecturer specialising in health and nutrition at Birmingham City University, warned that families forced into prolonged use of food banks may not be eating a balanced diet.

She and students analysed food typically on offer at food banks and drew up menus based on the items available.

“We found that it’s very much processed food being donated, with little fresh produce,” said Wakeman.

“The meal plans we came up with revealed that in the long term there is a real risk of children and families becoming deficient in fibre, calcium, iron and a variety of vitamins.

“We’re not criticising what food banks are doing and, of course, only food that is safe to eat should be available, which limits the handling of perishable food.”

When Wakeman and her students looked at what was available at food banks, they found items such as tinned soup, meat, puddings and pasta sauce dominated.

“I would like to see more fresh produce in there,” she said.

“If levels of poverty continue to rise, then the level of support given to food banks may have to be increased so we don’t have a situation where families are prevented from accessing nutritious food. Over longer periods eating donated food that is often refined could result in nutritional deficiencies.”

In 2013-14 food banks helped feed almost a million people in the UK, about a third of whom were children. Many food banks say their services should be used as emergency stopgaps.

But there is anecdotal evidence that many people use food banks for longer periods. A project in south-west England told last year’s all-party parliamentary inquiry into hunger and food poverty that it was supporting people for up to 12 weeks.

An Oxfam report gives the example of a single mother with three sons surviving for eight weeks with the help of food bank donations, while the user of a food bank in south-east London told researchers from Goldsmiths, University of London, they had been using a food bank for almost a year.

Beyond the anecdotal evidence, however, it is hard to find out how many people are using food banks for long periods. The all-party inquiry said there were a huge number of initiatives in the UK and the “food aid landscape” was difficult to document. In its report, the inquiry “detected some concern among food banks and food assistance providers about an over-reliance on donations; both in terms of the quality and variety of food supplied and the reliability of future supply”.

It also said:

“A large number of food assistance providers told us that barriers around cost and storage prevented them from asking for donations of fresh food.”

The largest of the networks, the Trussell Trust, which runs 420 food banks in partnership with communities and churches, operates a strict policy of providing “nutritionally balanced ambient food” to help out in a short-term crisis and is careful to work with clients to make sure they do not become dependent on the food bank. Some of its centres provide fresh food.

Adrian Curtis, food bank network director at the Trussell Trust, said: “Although we do not place a limit on the length of support we offer to clients, our systems monitor usage with referral organisations to avoid dependency.

The charity’s Eat Well, Spend Less project aims to teach cooking skills and budgeting.

Wakeman raised the problem of over-reliance on food banks at a conference to discuss child poverty in Birmingham organised by the News in Brum organisation.

A series of meetings are to be held for members of the public to work out ways of helping the tackle the problem. A working group will also be established to help students work with community groups in the city on the issue.

Source – The Guardian, 18 Mar 2015

Cost To Jobseekers Of Benefit Sanctions Rockets 3,000%

The cost to job seekers of having their benefit payments stopped has rocketed by 3,000% under the Tory-led coalition Government, new figures show.

Analysis of Government figures by the PCS union reveals that the value of Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) payments sanctioned in the year to September 2014 was £355 million, compared to just £11 million in 2009/2010.

PCS says the shocking figure explains why benefit sanctions have been directly linked to a surge in food bank users.

The food bank charity Trussell Trust supported more than 913,000 people with three-days worth of emergency food in 2013/14.

The new research from PCS is published ahead of a Dispatches investigation to be broadcast this evening into the government’s sanctions regime.

The documentary will feature details of a new report from a coalition of major churches, which reveals that nearly 100,000 children were affected by benefit sanctions last year.

Under changes to the sanctions regime, the length of time sanctions can be imposed for has increased, with the minimum set at four weeks, rising to 13 weeks and up to three years.

Opponents of the new system say unemployed people are being unfairly “vilified” and demonised for economic problems not of their making.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said:

“This government is imposing much harsher penalties on people who rely on social security at the same time as seeking to blame and vilify them for being out of work.

“Sanctions do nothing to help unemployed people find sustainable jobs. They only poison the relationship between claimants and jobcentre staff, and they should be scrapped immediately.”

> Mr Serwotka doesn’t tell us how many sanctions have been applied by PCS members. Or why his union hasn’t taken action about it.

Commenting on the impact of benefit sanction on Britain’s poorest children, TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:

“Something has gone badly wrong when 100,000 children are innocent victims of benefit sanctions.

“Under this government the sanctions system has become a cruel maze in which it is all too easy for claimants to lose cash for minor breaches of rules and random decisions.

“Even those who have contributed for years and are working hard to get a new job can find themselves sanctioned, and driven to food banks.

“There are now huge holes in the welfare safety net that whole families are falling through.

“And Jobcentre staff have been forced to moved away from providing positive help to meeting sanctions targets in a culture that is too often about bullying both frontline staff and claimants.”

> But some Jobcentre staff actually appear to revel in their new powers – many of us will have them in action. I kind of resent the way they’re now trying to reposition themselves as victims.

Source – Welfare Weekly,  03 Mar 2015

http://www.welfareweekly.com/cost-to-jobseekers-of-benefit-sanctions-rockets-3000/

South Tyneside Charity expands to offer more help to needy and homeless

A charity which provides vital support to some of South Tyneside’s most vulnerable citizens is on the move – and expanding its services.

South Shields-based Hospitality and Hope runs food banks and soup kitchens across the town.

It is currently based at Brinkburn Community Centre and the town’s Living Waters Church at Rekendyke.

But next week it will be moving into the former Hampden Street Day Centre in South Shields, which closed in 2013 as part of a reorganisation of the council’s day centre facilities.

The charity, which is run entirely by volunteers, has been given the premises by the local authority on a peppercorn rent.

It’s a big boost which will enable volunteers to expand the range of help they provide to people in crisis.

The move comes after a year in which demand for borough food banks has risen by 50 per cent.

It’s a need which Deb Stobbs, a volunteer fundraiser with Hope and Hospitality, can only see increasing as the impact of tough benefit changes continue to be felt.

She said: “The reality is that we have outgrown Brinkburn Community Centre.

“At the moment we package the food at Brinkburn and deliver it to different venues, in particular Living Waters.

“Now we are moving out of Brinkburn and Living Waters and consolidating in one building.

“Currently we are only open two days a week, Tuesday and Thursday, and this move means we can open more days.

“South Tyneside food banks saw a 50 per cent increase in the use of services last year and this is a crisis situation which is only going to get worse and affect more and more people.”

Food banks are not available for people who just turn up at the door.

Instead, those deemed to be living in crisis are issued with vouchers by organisations such as the JobCentre and referred to the charity.

It was all hands to the pumps this week as supporters from the Prince’s Trust and Asda went along to Hampden Street with paintbrushes and cleaning equipment to get the complex ready to open.

The charity has passed on thanks to some of the other organisations and individuals which have been supportive, including Youth Justice, North East Council for Addictions and Sir David and Lady Chapman, its patrons.

Coun Ed Malcolm, the council’s lead member for resources and innovation, said: “The council is delighted to be to able to support Hospitality and Hope by providing a building that has been vacant for some time.”

New volunteers are also invited to help out at soup kitchens in St Bede’s, in Westoe Road, South Shields, on Sunday night, St Michael’s and All Angels at Westoe on Wednesday 
lunchtime and at Harton Methodist Church on Thursday lunchtime.

Source –  Shields Gazette,  12 Feb 2015

County Durham Socialist Clothing Bank

Durham Community Support Centre

The Clothing Bank opened its doors today at Brandon Miners Welfare Hall from 12 until 2. As always we have been overwhelmed by the kindness of people who donate clothes, toiletries, their time and, in the case of the GMB Tyne and Wear branch, a £25 cheque. Thank you all.

001

The Clothing Bank was busy for the two hours it was open. We were pleased to welcome colleagues from Destiny Streetworx who feed up to 150 homeless people every Saturday at Pilgrim Street, Newcastle. They also offer a freshly prepared hot meal and drinks and  provide a Food Bank for those in need. We were happy to help them with clothes and toiletries to take back to their street  friends (check out their facebook page for more information)

004Another success today was an elderly lady who was desperate for a winter coat. At a size 6 this had been proving difficult…

View original post 201 more words

Food poverty under spotlight in South Tyneside

Measures needed to tackle food poverty across Britain are being scrutinised in South Tyneside today.

Members of an all-party Parliamentary inquiry team, including South Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck, visited the town’s Churches Together Key Project, at St Mary’s Centre, last summer as part of a fact-finding exercise.

The team also held a discussion session at St Jude’s Church Hall at Rekendyke, South Shields, and visited the New Hope Food Bank, in the town’s Robinson Street.

They heard poignant personal accounts from young borough people forced to rely on food banks to survive, and they were told that more than 1,680 people in South Tyneside had visited food banks in 2013.

Everything the team learned in the borough has helped inform the recommendations they made to the Government on the extent of hunger across the country and the actions needed to address it.

Today Mrs Lewell-Buck and the Rt Rev Mark Bryant, the Bishop of Jarrow, are among those meeting at South Shields Town Hall to discuss the findings of the hard-hitting report.

The report identifies a clear link between the use of food banks and tougher restrictions on access to benefits.

> Like it wasn’t always obvious ?

It insists that, contrary to Government claims, food banks have spread because of greater need.

Among a raft of recommendations, the report calls for bigger food banks to distribute more free food and advise people on how to claim benefits and make ends meet.

And it recommends a rise in the minimum wage and the provision of free school meals during school holidays for poorer children.

The report says:

“We do not believe food banks should take the place of statutory welfare provision in this country, but our evidence suggests there is a strong desire for longer-term interaction between food banks and vulnerable households, and an eagerness for these relationships to become embedded within local communities so they can help people overcome the deep-seated causes of hunger.”

Mrs Lewell-Buck said:

“We’ve had a great response to our report, and we’ve managed to get the Government to accept that some aspects of the benefits system aren’t working and are causing a lot of hardship.

“I think the Government’s priority needs to be dealing with low-paid and insecure work, as well as the harsh way benefit sanctions are being imposed.

> Yes, we all think so too. So are you actually going to do something about it ? Will your party, if they win the general election ?

“The group’s work doesn’t stop with the report, however. This is an ongoing mission to put an end to food poverty, and that is why I am holding today’s meeting to discuss the next steps for the group and for Shields.”

The Government is now considering the findings of the inquiry team.

A Government spokesman said:

“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.”

SOME OF THE REPORT’S 77 RECOMMENDATIONS:

–  The Government should provide support for 12 pilot projects across the UK to draw together voluntary and public expertise to eliminate hunger.

– All supermarkets should follow the example of Tesco and add 30 per cent to any food given by its shoppers to food banks.

> Bought by shoppers in Tesco.  It might look a bit more magnaminous if they just gave something without those kind of strings ?

– Local authorities should work with food organisations to free up land for food production, retail and storage.

> But don’t we have all those things already ? Surely the problem facing people using foodbanks is that we have plenty of food, but not the money to buy it ?

– Credit unions accounts’ should be made eligible for receipt of Universal Credit to encourage use among low-income households.

– Local authorities should begin collecting information on whether landlords in receipt of housing benefit are providing basic cooking facilities for their tenants.

– The Government should reform the benefits system so it can deliver payments within five working days.

> I’m sure it could right now… if it wanted to.

– The Department of Work and Pensions ought to simplify access to hardship payments.

 > And it could do that right now too… if, of course, it wanted to…
Source –  Shields Gazette,  06 Feb 2015

Whitley Bay foodbank charity wins award for helping struggling families

A Tyneside charity has been given a special award for helping to provide food to thousands of families struggling with cash.

The Bay Foodbank has been presented with the Whitley Bay Town Cup by North Tyneside Council.

The authority awards the cup to an organisation or individual of the town who has brought about an outstanding event in the last year, or has been of outstanding service to the community.

The foodbank was chosen this year in recognition of its work in providing emergency food parcels to residents having financial problems either through low income, redundancy, medical bills, a bereavement or benefit delays.

Coun Tommy Mulvenna, chairman of council, said:

“This cup is a fantastic way to show our appreciation and recognising the excellent work that these organisations do.

“The Bay Foodbank provides a very important service to the residents of not only Whitley Bay, but the whole of North Tyneside and they thoroughly deserve this honour.”

The charity has set up several drop-off points across the borough, in locations including supermarkets and churches, where members of the public leave donations of non-perishable food items such as long life milk, tea bags, coffee, tinned fish, meat and vegetables, and baby food.

These are then packaged into parcels and delivered to needy families.

People can be referred to the service by churches, doctors, social services or other agencies.

Rev Alan Dickinson, the group’s chairman, said:

“The Bay Foodbank is honoured to receive the Whitley Bay Town Cup.

“We’d like to thank all of our dedicated volunteers who devote their time, but also those who donate to us because without their support we wouldn’t be able to continue the work we do.

“We’re currently supplying around 1,200 meals per week to those most at need in North Tyneside – resulting in a total of almost 12,000 people we have helped support since 2012.

“Last year was our busiest year yet and we can only hope that our fantastic supporters will stick with us for the coming year.

“We have a good working relationship with North Tyneside Council and look forward to continuing this in 2015.”

The Town Cup was introduced by the former Whitley Bay Council in 1954 and it was donated to North Tyneside Council on its formation in 1974.

Source –  Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 23 Jan 2015