Tagged: food parcels

Food Bank Use Soars To More Than ONE MILLION, Says Trussell Trust

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’.

Source: Trussell Trust
Source: Trussell Trust

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%.

Source: Trussell Trust
Source: Trussell Trust

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

http://www.welfareweekly.com/food-bank-use-soars-to-more-than-one-million-says-trussell-trust/

North Northumberland Food bank humbled by generosity

Kind-hearted residents have demonstrated their festive goodwill to ensure the needy don’t go without food and other essentials this Christmas.

North Northumberland Food Bank has been ‘overwhelmed’ by the generous donations made by local residents in recent weeks.

Around 25 bags – each containing seven days worth of food – had been given out by the end of last week with another 50 expected to be snapped up before Christmas.

The generosity of the community has been overwhelming,” revealed Jan Casson, food bank programme manager.

“We have had more food, toiletries, selection boxes, small gifts and so on.

“Those who give regularly have given more, it has been very humbling.

“Berwick people should be very proud, a community coming together to care.”

Nearly 1,000 people had been helped by the project from January up to the end of October. This included 571 bags of food and the feeding of 495 adults, 177 children under five and 242 children over five.

The food bank has been operational for a couple of years and continues to meet a real need in the north of the county.

This, however, is only part of the picture. It has, from very humble beginnings, developed into a project where so many aspects of the community have rallied together to make real differences to so many people.

“This is a really wonderful example of the community working together to help each other not only at this Christmas time but also throughout the year,” said Ian Guthrie of Berwick Community Trust.

Food and money are donated by many organisations, individuals, churches and supermarkets through a whole range of initiatives. These donations are controlled at a central store where a team of reliable volunteers sort the items into the particular commodities, into use by date order, and then into balanced parcels to meet the needs of the recipients of the parcels.

“Grateful thanks are due for not only the donation of these goods but also for the band of volunteers who make it all happen,” said Ian.

He explained that there is a system in place to identify people who are having short term financial difficulties due to delays in payment of benefits, delay with wage payments when they start employment, difficulty in paying regular bills and a whole range of other circumstances which mean they do not have ready access to money.

In these circumstances food parcels are made available to the families to tide them over but crucially this is not done until at least one of the professional organisations has had an opportunity to understand the problem the individual is facing and to ensure that the best possible advice is given to them to resolve the problem.

There has been a recent extension to the service where parcels are made available to elderly people who are discharged from hospital to ensure that they have sufficient food to meet their immediate needs. This helps to reduce the chances of them being re-admitted to hospital.

“Recipients of the parcels are really appreciative of the help they receive and equally the people donating the food and money are helping to meet a demand which sadly exists in the 21st century,” said Ian.

The whole operation is overseen by an ad hoc committee of interested parties which meets on a regular basis to review the operation of the service.

Source –  Berwick Advertiser,  24 Dec 2014

Welfare Sanctions Make Vulnerable Reliant On Food Banks, Says YMCA

This article  was written by Patrick Butler, social policy editor, for The Guardian on Thursday 13th November 2014

The YMCA, the UK’s oldest youth charity, has warned the government that its changes to welfare policy are driving vulnerable young people to become reliant on food bank handouts rather than preparing them for jobs.

About 5,000 young people were referred by YMCAs to food banks last year, it said in a report, with benefit sanctions cited as the main reason for what it called a “significant increase” in the number of clients falling into food poverty.

The YMCA accused ministers of having their “heads in the sand” over welfare changes and they must urgently fix flaws in the benefits system that leave an increasing number of young people penniless.

The charity, which has 114 branches in England, works with care leavers and youngsters who have left home to escape abuse or family breakdown. The majority of those referred to food banks were people living in special supported accommodation.

Denise Hatton, YMCA England chief executive, told the Guardian:

For me, the benefit system is there to support the most vulnerable people. We are in touch with young people and we know the system which is there to protect them is failing them, and the government must want to do something about that.”

She said the government could no longer ignore the way jobcentres were treating vulnerable young people.

“The welfare system was set up to protect and provide a safety net for those individuals in their time of need and so that no one would be left without money to be able to afford food. However, our evidence shows it is failing in this role.

“It is unacceptable in this day and age that anyone should have to rely on the kindness of strangers in order to eat.”

The YMCA’s criticisms of a rigid “tick box” approach to benefits that imposes strict punishments for infringements but fails to meet the needs of individuals with complex needs echoes the findings of the government-commissioned Oakley review of sanctions, published in July, which said the system placed disproportionate burdens on the most vulnerable.

Ministers have persistently rejected claims that the rise in referrals to food banks has been driven by sanctions and delays in benefit payments, but Hatton said the link was incontrovertible.

I have been in this kind of work for 30 years, working with young people on the ground, and I have never known it like this.”

The charity said a lack of flexibility in jobcentre culture and practice meant the benefits system was unable to respond to the challenges faced by youngsters who had chaotic lifestyles or learning difficulties.

Jobcentre staff focused on pushing claimants into intensive work-search activity such applying for jobs and completing CVs, even when young people were emotionally unprepared for work. When they failed to meet these tough conditions they were punished by having their benefits stopped, with the effect that they were left further from the job market.

The YMCA cites the case of Joshua, 21, from Nelson, Lancashire, who was sanctioned after attending one of its residential courses designed to prepare him for volunteering. Although he told the jobcentre about the course and provided evidence it would help him find a job, he was sanctioned for having missed an appointment and had his jobseeker’s allowance stopped for three months.

Joshua said:

“I went three months living on food parcels from the local mosques and the church, which was really degrading because you lose all your dignity. The assistance I got was purely from the YMCA and Stepping Stones [a housing charity], other than that I think I would have starved.”

The YMCA said:

We are fortunate to live in a country where people and communities give so charitably. However, relying upon this goodwill and other organisations to pick up the pieces should not be seen by the government as a substitute to fixing a welfare system that is driving many young people into hardship rather than employment.”

Although jobcentres are able in theory to offer hardship payments to vulnerable and penniless claimants who have been sanctioned, the YMCA says one in four of its clients said they were not told of this potential source of support, while even fewer knew they could apply to their local councils’ welfare assistance scheme for crisis help.

Even where they did know this help was available, however, many youngsters were deemed ineligible, with nearly a third of YMCAs referring clients to food banks because they had been turned down for hardship payments or crisis loans.

Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) figures show that the proportion of young people having their payments stopped for alleged infringements has doubled since tighter conditions were applied to unemployment benefit claims in October 2012.

The YMCA says in its report:

“While there is recognition among YMCAs and young people that conditionality is an important element of any benefit system, the way it is being administered and the focus on punishing perceived ‘bad behaviour’ over rewarding those doing the right thing is having a detrimental effect on the wellbeing of young people.”

A DWP spokesman said:

“There is no robust evidence that our reforms are linked to increased use of food banks and these claims are based on anecdotal evidence. “The reality is benefit processing times are improving and we continue to spend £94bn a year on working age benefits to ensure there is a strong safety net in place.”

Source –  Welfare Weekly,  13 Nov 2014

http://www.welfareweekly.com/welfare-sanctions-make-vulnerable-reliant-food-banks-says-ymca/

More emergency food parcels handed out to people in Gateshead than ever before

Emergency food parcels are more in demand than ever before, according to the latest statistics.

Since opening nearly two years ago, a total of 52 tonnes of food has been handed out to folk in Gateshead in parcels.

More than 100 volunteers have worked around the clock to provide the front-line service to more than 5,000 people, 1,600 of who were children, since opening in 2012.

Statistics show an increase of 27% year-on-year, as 1904 people turned to the food bank this year as opposed to 1649 the previous year.

And secretary of Beacon Lough Baptist Church,  Ian Britton, which  is part of Gateshead Food bank, said the demand for emergency food is growing each week.

“The figures show a steady increase in demand and we are really grateful to the people of Gateshead for their donations and for the people in volunteering.

“We have been able to help 5,000 people in Gateshead who have been helped by the people of Gateshead. It’s very much a community thing. Churches and professionals are working to help people in their time of need.

“The majority of people only receive help from the food bank once and after that professional agencies are able to sort out their problems.”

Figures obtained by organisers show that more people living in Saltwell have used the food bank than anywhere else in the borough, when 408 adults and 153 children from the ward used the service over a two year period.

In Dunston and Teams a total of 541 people were handed food parcels in their time of need.

More than 1770 people used the food bank because of delays of their benefit, while 768 people said they used the service because of changes to their welfare.

Statistics also showed low income and debt were reasons for folk needing help.

Mr Britton added:

“The reality of what we are told by the professionals is that delays and changes to benefits is one of the main reasons for using the food bank.”

The food bank, run by volunteers from churches in Gateshead, works with care professionals, GPs and the Citizens Advice Bureau to distribute food to those families in need in the town. They provide three days of emergency food to people who find themselves in need.

For more information, call 0191 487 0898 or email info@gateshead.foodbank.org.uk

 Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 05 Nov 2014

Hunger and food poverty are sweeping the North East, inquiry told

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 Thatcheris 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

Jarrow MP – ‘Welfare reforms driving people to brink of suicide’

Benefit changes are driving jobless people in South Tyneside to the brink of suicide, Jarrow MP Stephen Hepburn has warned.

 Mr Hepburn revealed he had recently met two people contemplating suicide within a few days of each other.

One of them, a man, had just been discharged from hospital after swallowing 60 tablets in an attempt to kill himself.

The other, a woman, told him she thought daily about taking her own life because of her struggles with benefits.

That led to Mr Hepburn alerting several agencies and asking them to keep an eye on the woman.

His stark warning comes as one South Tyneside clergyman reports on a drastic rise in the number of food parcels being distributed in the borough.

Mr Hepburn claims recent legislation, such as the  Bedroom Tax and other benefit changes, are driving people to despair.

He said: “I have never known such a terrible time for people on benefits. It seems worse than the Thatcher years.

“I met this man and woman within a few days of each other, and both were contemplating suicide because of problems with their benefits.

“A woman told me she was thinking of taking her own life, and just two days later, I met a man who was just out of hospital after taking 60 tablets while in a state of despair.

“Basically, people right at the bottom, who cannot get a job and are on benefits, are getting hammered.

“Both these people want to work, but there’s little or nothing on offer in the local jobcentre.”

Mr Hepburn added: “People are dealing with the bedroom tax or are disabled and are being told they have to work or are coping with some of the many other benefit changes introduced by this Tory-led Government.

“I have never known it so bad that I have had to meet two people talking about committing suicide inside one week.

“It feels like we are going backwards to the days of the Poor Laws.”

> I think the planned destination is even further back – a return to feudalism, no less.

Mr Hepburn has asked the relevant agencies to help the two constituents he met over the last week.

The Reverend Roy Merrin, of Grange Road Baptist Church in Jarrow, also believes that some people on benefits are under “extreme pressure”.

He said organisers of the food bank run by Churches Together in South Tyneside have recently noticed a significant rise in demand.

Mr Merrin said: “Throughout last year as a whole, a total of 534 food parcels were distributed in South Tyneside, but a total of 320 parcels have already been given out in just the first four months of this year.

“If those figures are translated throughout the rest of the year, the demand is going to be significantly higher.

“These are proven statistics, and there is pressure on some people, partly because of changes to the benefits system.

“I know from people coming to the church that they are experiencing difficulties because of the tightening-up of benefit regulations.”

Source – Shields Gazette   09 May 2014

Councils Sit On £67m In Emergency Help For Poor

This article was written by Patrick Butler, George Arnett, Sarah Marsh and Samir Jeraj, for The Guardian on Sunday 20th April 2014

A fledgling scheme to provide emergency help to the poorest in the country is in chaos, with £67m left unspent and record numbers of families being turned away.

Figures released in response to Freedom of Information Act requests indicate that by the end of January councils in England were sitting on £67m of the £136m that had been allocated to local welfare schemes. Half of local authorities had spent less than 40% of their funds.

An analysis by the Guardian shows that under the new local welfare assistance schemes, four in 10 applications for emergency funds are turned down, despite evidence that many applicants have been made penniless by benefits sanctions and delays in processing benefit claims. Under the previous system – the social fund – just two in 10 were. In some parts of the country, as few as one in 10 applicants obtain crisis help.

The schemes were designed to help low-income families in crisis, such as those in danger of becoming homeless or subjected to domestic violence. Charities and MPs have warned that those denied help are turning to food banks and loan sharks.

Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, which offers debt and legal advice, said the emergency financial support system was in chaos. “When the safety net fails, people are left with no way of putting food on the table, paying the rent or keeping the lights on. Confusion over what help is available and who to approach means that people who need support are left high and dry.

“People are in danger of being pushed into the arms of payday lenders and loan sharks by the chaotic emergency support system. Citizens Advice bureaux see people in desperate need of support who have nowhere else to turn when jobcentres and the local council don’t give out support.”

Under the new system, emergency funds are no longer ringfenced, meaning that councils can divert unspent cash to other budgets. Local welfare assistance schemes were created a year ago in 150 English authorities, alongside national schemes in Wales and Scotland, following the abolition of the social fund.

Most schemes do not offer cash or loans, but support in kind, such as food parcels and supermarket vouchers. The social fund provided loans repayable against future benefit payments – typically about £50 – and larger capital grants to destitute families who needed help to furnish flats or replace broken domestic appliances.

Despite charities reporting that demand for help has rocketed as a result of economic hardship and welfare cuts, some councils spent more money setting up and administering their welfare schemes than they gave to needy applicants.

Councils told the Guardian they had provided less in emergency funding than in the past because there was a lack of public awareness of the new system. Some had failed to advertise their schemes, while others set such tight eligibility criteria that many applicants – typically including low-paid working families, benefit claimants and those deemed to have not lived in their local area for long enough – were turned away.

Simon Danczuk, the Labour MP for Rochdale, who has repeatedly raised the issue of local welfare in parliament, said his constituents frequently reported struggles to get crisis help. Constituents he has helped include:

• A low-wage family with three children, including an 11-month-old baby, who applied for £35 to pay for gas, electricity and baby food to help them until payday. The council scheme initially referred the family to a food bank. After lobbying by Danczuk, they were given £20 for energy costs, but were refused money for baby food.

• A pregnant mother and her partner, who after benefit changes were left with £7 a week for food after rent and council tax. They were told that they could not apply as the scheme was for “genuine emergencies” such as fires and flood.

In each case Danczuk believes the families would have qualified for emergency support under the social fund. “Central and local government are pushing people into the hands of payday loan companies and food banks. They have in effect privatised the lender of last resort,” he said.

A spokesman for the Department for Work and Pensions, which funds local welfare schemes run by 150 local authorities across England, said: “In contrast to a centralised grant system that was poorly targeted, councils can now choose how best to support those most in need. It is for local councils to decide how they spend their budgets.”

But a Conservative council leader has called on the government to reinstate local welfare assistance funding, calling it a “cut too far”. Louise Goldsmith, leader of West Sussex county council, said the proposed cut would leave many low income families without vital support when they were going through a “tough patch in their lives”.

A briefing note prepared by the council found that 43% of 5,582 individuals and families helped by the local welfare fund to the end of February had applied because they had been left penniless by benefit sanctions and delays.

The Local Government Association has called upon the ministers to reverse the cut, and it is understood a number of councils and welfare charities are preparing to seek a judicial review of the government’s decision to cut local welfare assistance funding in April 2015.

Many councils are using part of their welfare assistance allocation to provide financial support for local food banks, which provide penniless applicants with charity food parcels.

Lady Stowell, a local government minister, told the House of Lords in January that local authorities were “doing a good job of supporting people in times of crisis and are doing it without using all the funding that has been provided so far from DWP”.

But Centrepoint, the homelessness charity said that local welfare assistance underspending meant many homeless youngsters could not get vital support when they moved from hostels into independent living. “Councils need to start using these funds to address urgent need now and ensure that young people have access to it,” said Seyi Obakin, Centrepoint’s chief executive.

Two local authorities – Labour-run Nottinghamshire county council and Tory-run Oxfordshire – have scrapped local welfare assistance altogether and plan to divert the money into social care services..

Conservative-run Herefordshire  county council had spent less than £5,000 of its annual £377,000 allocation by the end of December last year, equivalent to 1% of its local welfare budget.It said its spending reflected low demand for crisis help, a claim disputed by Hereford Citizens Advice and Hereford food bank, which said they had been inundated with requests.

Labour-run Islington council had spent 80% of its emergency funds budget by the end of December last year and had spent all its emergency funds by April. It said it had encouraged its frontline staff to refer individuals to its local welfare scheme to ensure they got crisis help and assistance with any underlying problems, such as debt.

Local authorities are anticipating further problems over local welfare in 2015 when the DWP scraps funding for the schemes. Councils, charities and MPs have called on the government to restore and ringfence the crisis support allocation.

Councils say that in some cases they have refused emergency help because benefit claimants have been wrongly referred to local authority welfare schemes by jobcentres. Some councils have refused to accept applications from those who ought to have been offered a short-term benefit advance from their local jobcentre.

Scotland and Wales have their own welfare assistance schemes and these have higher applicant success rates than in England. In Northern Ireland, which still has the social fund, 70% of applicants received help.

Source – Welfare News Service  20 April 2014

http://welfarenewsservice.com/councils-sit-on-67m-in-emergency-help-for-poor/

Need for food banks is caused by welfare cuts, research shows

> Research – perhaps by the same people who, after several years “research“, decided that on  the balance of probability the Pope was almost certainly a catholic – tells us what most people had already worked out for themselves : the rise in foodbanks and the welfare cuts are not unconnected.

The government’s welfare reforms, including benefit sanctions and the bedroom tax, are a central factor in the explosion in the numbers of impoverished people turning to charity food banks, an academic study has said.

The study, part of a three-year investigation into emergency food provision, was carried out by Hannah Lambie-Mumford, a Sheffield University researcher who co-authored a recently published government report into the extent of food aid in the UK.

That report concluded there was insufficient evidence to demonstrate a clear causal link between welfare reform and food bank demand in the UK. But Lambie-Mumford’s new study, to be published on Wednesday, says the rise in demand for charity food is a clear signal “of the inadequacy of both social security provision and the processes by which it is delivered“.

The report warns that as social security safety nets become weaker, there is a danger that charity food could become an integral part of the state welfare provision, or even an replacement for formerly state-funded emergency welfare schemes.

> And that is a really scary prospect – having to go cap-in-hand to charities in order to survive. How very Victorian.

Lambie-Mumford’s study was based on 25 in-depth interviews with a range of food bank staff and volunteers in 2012 and 2013 and found many food banks were adapting to demand by scaling up food collection and storage provision “to accommodate the future trajectory of need“.

Her paper will be presented to an all-party committee of MPs which meets on Wednesday to finalise the terms of an inquiry into hunger and food poverty. The inquiry will examine the rise of food banks, an issue that has become politically highly charged as ministers attempt to deflect criticism that austerity policies, including welfare cuts, have had the effect of compelling more people on low incomes to rely on food aid.

> Well, what kind of result  did they expect austerity policies to have ? The clue is in the name…

Lambie-Mumford said her research showed that food banks were expanding to meet rising demand caused in part by a squeeze on welfare entitlements which made already poor people even worse off. This was compounded by inadequate processing of social security claims, including payment delays and “arbitrary and unfair” sanctioning decisions that left claimants without any income at all.

There were other factors which had contributed to the rise of food banks, such as low wages and the rise in the cost of food. But it was important that MPs did not duck or underplay the importance of welfare reform. “The tricky thing is that welfare reform is the most political aspect of a political issue. But we should not shy away from it for this reason,” she said.

The welfare minister Lord Freud notoriously claimed last year that more people were going to food banks because the food was free, thereby triggering “almost infinite demand”. Last month Freud admitted people did not turn up “willingly” at food banks but said it was “very hard to know why” they did go.

> And its people of this calibre making welfare decisions ?

The Trussell trust, which oversees a network of more than 400 food banks in the UK, has insisted repeatedly that welfare reform is the biggest driver of demand for food parcels. Its third-quarter data, published in March, showed that it helped 614,000 people in the first nine months of this year. Its final-year figures, expected next week, are likely to show that demand has more than doubled in the past 12 months.

More than eight out of 10 food bank managers interviewed for the study acknowledged the impact of welfare changes and welfare processes as a factor in driving demand.

A DWP spokesperson said: “This report, which is based on just 25 interviews, fails to consider how welfare reforms are helping people off benefits and into jobs. The truth is that we now have record numbers of people in work, the highest employment rate for five years, and falling unemployment.”

> I should imagine its easy to spot a DWP spokesperson – they must have very long noses by now.

Source – Welfare News Service  08 April 2014

http://www.scoop.it/t/welfare-news-service/p/4019225517/2014/04/08/need-for-food-banks-is-caused-by-welfare-cuts-research-shows

DWP Advising Jobcentres On Sending Claimants To Food Banks – Documents

This article  was written by Rowena Mason and Patrick Butler, for The Guardian on Tuesday 11th March 2014

The Department for Work and Pensions is advising jobcentres on how to send people to food banks, official documents show – despite ministers’ claiming the charitable support forms no part of the welfare system.

Ministers insist jobcentres “do not refer people to food banks or issue vouchers” and that food banks are “absolutely not a part of the welfare system because we have other means of supporting people”. They say jobcentres only “signpost” the existence of food banks and dispute the link between welfare changes and a surge in their use.

However, documents obtained under freedom of information laws show there is a “high level process” written by the DWP to be followed when benefit claimants say they are in hardship because of government policy and need food.

A six-step flowchart for jobcentre staff shows that the four reasons to recommend a food bank when claimants ask for help are hardship caused by benefit changes, benefit payment delays, a benefit advance has been refused, or the advance is not enough to meet their needs.

Jobcentres that choose to offer a food bank referral “service” are told to do a health and safety assessment before sending people to a particular charity.

As part of the process, Jobcentre Plus staff fill in a slip with the claimant’s details but another document orders them, in bold letters, not to describe this as a “food voucher” – apparently so as not to erode the argument that they are not part of the welfare system.

The documents show each jobcentre is told to write down how many people have been sent to food banks on a “slip record sheet”, even though the DWP has said: “Food banks are not part of government policy and, as such, the Department for Work and Pensions does not hold or collect information on their usage.”

The latest statistics from the Trussell Trust, which oversees a network of more than 400 food banks in the UK, show 614,000 adults and children received food parcels from its food banks in the first nine months of 2013-14, compared with 350,000 for the whole of 2012-13.

Benefit changes and delays – including instances where claimants had their benefits sanctioned, or stopped for breaches of conditionality – accounted for 49% of referrals to trust food banks to the end of December. In 2012-13 these categories accounted for 43% of referrals.

Although the DWP says it does not refer people to food banks, one of the documents obtained by the Guardian is entitled Foodbank Referral Service – High Level Process. The DWP said the guidance had mistakenly been issued by staff dealing with the freedom of information request. It said all guidance to Jobcentre Plus had now been modified to change the word “referral” to “signposting” – even though the process for directing those in need of aid to food banks appears to be exactly the same.

DWP officials say people are “signposted” to food banks only if other options are exhausted, as local authorities now have responsibility for emergency food aid. However, the official DWP food bank guidance for jobcentres makes no reference to alternative help from local authorities.

The DWP added: “The benefits system supports millions of people who are on low incomes or unemployed and there is no robust evidence that welfare reforms are linked to increased use of food banks. Our reforms are fair and mean the welfare system will remain what it was always intended to be – a safety net for people at times of need.”

Labour said the DWP’s arguments that the government is not relying on food banks to fill a gap in the welfare system were unravelling. “Last year ministers said, ‘food banks are absolutely not part of our welfare system’, yet these official DWP documents show a system for referrals has been established,” said Luciana Berger, shadow public health minister. “If ministers cannot answer the simplest of questions about their department, how can we have any confidence they will tackle the rising number of people who are having to access emergency food aid?

“As the queues at food banks grow with hundreds of thousands of people forced to use food banks to survive so too do the costs to our public health and wellbeing. Food banks have become a truly shameful symbol of Britain under this Tory-led government.”

Esther McVey, the employment minister, had refused to release the guidance to Berger, saying: “It is not common practice in DWP to publish internal guidance.”

Chris Mould, the executive chairman of the Trussell Trust, said despite the guidance, jobcentre practice on charity food support varied across the country.

A small number of jobcentres had good relationships with local food banks, some ignored food banks altogether and others referred claimants to food banks “indiscriminately and without thinking”.

The Trussell Trust and the DWP agreed in 2011 after months of discussions that jobcentre staff should be able to send claimants to food banks. However, ministers continued to insist this only amounted to “signposting” in the right direction.

Last year, officials unilaterally changed the referral forms to remove the reasons why someone may have been sent to a food bank. Critics said this move made it harder for food bank staff to identify whether clients had been referred as a consequence of welfare reform.

Mould said: “The debate about whether food banks are part of the welfare state is a bit of a red herring. The real issue is about why people go hungry”.

Source – Welfare News Service,  12 March 2014

http://welfarenewsservice.com/dwp-advising-jobcentres-sending-claimants-food-banks-documents/