Tagged: food poverty

Fencehouses – New Foodbank opens

A new foodbank distribution point has opened in a small village.

The County Durham Foodbank food collection point will operate from the YMCA at Fencehouses near Chester-le-Street every Tuesday from 1pm to 3pm.

Stuart Hudson, Foodbank distribution centres manager, said:

“We are always looking for areas that will benefit from a Foodbank presence to meet the needs of those within communities who are in crisis.

“YMCA Fencehouses have identified that their local community would benefit from Foodbank support and we are looking forward to building relationships with referral agencies, local communities and the YMCA.”

Project lead David McCreedy said:

“For any Foodbank, feeding people in financial crisis is what they do.

“At Fencehouses YMCA Foodbank however, we consider that it is equally important to identify why people are becoming hungry and to take action to reduce food poverty. We will work with those using the Foodbank to support them in other areas of their difficult predicament.”

The County Durham Foodbank takes referrals from various agencies and currently runs 27 distribution points. Last year it provided 15,500 three-day food parcels to 9,963 individuals, many affected by welfare reforms or benefit delays.

Source – Durham Times, 27 May 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

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

Benefit Sanctions ‘Postcode Lottery’ Exposes A ‘Deeply Flawed System’, Says Charity

A leading homeless charity has warned of a ‘postcode lottery’ in the benefits sanctions regime, exposing a ‘deeply flawed system’.

An independent report reveals how a flawed and punitive benefits sanctions regime is having devastating consequences for homelessness, food poverty and health.

The report – ‘Benefit Sanctions and Homelessness’ – carried out by the Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research at Sheffield Hallam University for the homeless charity Crisis, shows wide variations in how benefit sanctions are imposed across the UK.

Benefit Sanctions Hotspots. Source: Crisis.

Evidence was also uncovered into how large numbers of “unfair and inappropriate” sanctions are being dished out against benefit claimants.

Around half of all benefit sanctions which are later appealed are overturned in favor of the claimant. Jobcentres and Work Programme providers admitted to not always understanding how the rules should be applied, with Work Programme sanctions the most likely to be overturned (19%).

Homeless people are being ‘disproportionately affected by sanctions’, the report says. Many homeless people face obstacles and barriers that make it more difficult to meet requirements placed upon them in order to continue receiving benefits, including mental and physical health problems, a history of domestic violence and poor literacy and IT skills.

According to the report, sanctions can increase the risk of homelessness and leave vulnerable adults unable to feed themselves. Affected people are forced to borrow money from family and friends, leading to family problems and arguments.

Sanctions can also make it harder for unemployed people to find work; travel to interviews, purchase suitable clothes and can “de-motivate people from engaging with the system”.

Jon Sparkes, Chief Executive of Crisis, said:

“The Government has assured us that benefit sanctions are only for those who refuse to play by the rules. But evidence is mounting of a punitive and deeply flawed regime.

“Sanctions are cruel and can leave people at severe risk of homelessness – cold, hungry and utterly destitute. At the same time, people who are already homeless can struggle to meet the conditions of the regime. Many are trying to rebuild their lives, and losing the support of benefits can be disastrous.

“This isn’t helping people into work. It’s kicking them when they’re down.

“We want our next Government to commit to an urgent, wide-ranging review looking at the appropriateness and effectiveness of sanctions, especially for people at risk of or experiencing homelessness.”

Report author, Dr Kesia Reeve of Sheffield Hallam University said:

“This evidence review raises serious questions about the appropriateness, effectiveness, and consequences of benefit sanctions, particularly for homeless people.

“The evidence at present is limited, but points clearly to a system that is more punitive than it is supportive and that fails to take into account the barriers homeless people face.

“The scale and magnitude of sanctions is startling, as is the wide variation found across the country.

“Over the coming year we will be building a robust evidence base, so that informed debate can take place about the appropriateness and effectiveness of welfare conditionality and benefit sanctions in the context of homelessness.”

Source –  Welfare Weekly,  10 Mar 2015

http://www.welfareweekly.com/benefit-sanctions-postcode-lottery-exposes-a-deeply-flawed-system-says-charity/

IDS hides poverty statistics until after the election

Crucial statistics on the effects of the governments welfare reforms will be deliberately delayed until after the election, to prevent academics and campaigners discovering the effects of policies such as the bedroom tax, changes to disability living allowance and employment and support allowance and increased sanctions.

The Households Below Average Income figures will be two and a half years out of date by the time of the election.

Complaints about the delay in publication were made to Iain Duncan Smith as long ago as last September, but with no effect. IDS has also continued to refuse to meet with the Trussell Trust to discuss food poverty.

Dawn Foster, writing in the Guardian argues that:

“Academic annoyances aside, the impact of this delay on the political debate around welfare in the election is huge. Cuts to welfare provision have been a flagship policy of the coalition government, and the belief that the answer to unemployment and poverty is to cut off financial support looks to be a mainstay of the Conservatives’ campaign until 7 May. But the official statistics all parties rely on to make their arguments will be two-and-a-half-years out of date, and completely useless as a measure of how the coalition’s welfare changes have affected poverty rates. The raft of changes that heralded the start of the 2013 financial year are hidden from official statistics until votes have been cast.”

You can read the full article in the Guardian.

Source –  Benefits & Work, 18 Feb 2015

http://www.benefitsandwork.co.uk/news/3023-ids-hides-poverty-statistics-until-after-the-election

North East Christians call for end to ‘political short-termism’ ahead of General Election

North East Christians are calling for an end to “political short-termism” and urge the next Government to take issues like homelessness and food poverty seriously.

A new poll by Church Action on Poverty also reveals practising Christians are frustrated by church leaders’ failure to challenge politicians.

The poll, carried out by ComRes, highlights a deep dissatisfaction with Government among the region’s congregations.

It found:

  • Eight in ten (82%) Christians would vote for a party with a positive long-term vision for society;
  • Nine in ten (90%) think politicians are more interested in short-term political concerns;
  • 74% believe churches and church leaders don’t talk enough in public about issues like food poverty, homelessness and tax avoidance;
  • Four in five (85%) say that churches and church leaders do not effectively challenge politicians to communicate a long-term positive vision for society.

Minister Simon Lawton, of Newcastle’s Elim Pentecostal Church, said:

“I’m not at all surprised by the results of this survey. I would imagine that most people would agree with its findings.

“I believe people long for a society where compassion, justice and love and respect for your fellow man is central.

“Naturally we all have a part to play in this. The coming election is an opportunity for all of us, especially Christians, to host hustings and interview prospective candidates in order to make an informed decision.

“We can make a difference and we have a responsibility to make our vote count locally.”

The charity Churches Together is now calling on church-goers to challenge the region’s would-be MPs during hustings it will organise in the run-up to the General Election to coincide with its Vision 2020 of the Good Society report.

It comes ahead of Church Action on Poverty Sunday, this weekend as the charity calls for politicians to put forward a vision for a better society and to reject negative campaigning.

Niall Cooper, director of Church Action on Poverty, said:

“As the Bible says ‘Without a vision, the people perish.’

“Christians are crying out for politicians to share a positive long-term vision for society – but politicians and political parties are currently failing to do so.

“But today’s poll is also a challenge to the churches to speak publicly about our own vision of a good society.

“By organising local hustings events, we can challenge those who want to represent us in Parliament to go beyond the usual political short-termism and engage in a positive debate about the kind of society they – and we – want to live in by the year 2020.”

Bob Fyffe, general secretary of Churches Together, added:

“The emphasis church-goers so often want is a shared vision of the Common Good. How do we build long-term sustainable communities where justice and compassion are at the centre of all that we do?

“It is having a vision for those who are on the margins and feel that there is no one there for them.

“How do we build local communities where people of faith and those of no faith can share common values and live in harmony, where everyone has a proper sense of belonging?

“Taking part in the democratic process is of fundamental importance to being a good citizen. The church hustings allow people to come together and make informed decisions which are central to their lives and prosperity.”

Source –  Newcastle Evening Chronicle,  13 Feb 2015

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

Darlington food bank becomes a lifeline for local community

“We are here for the whole community – if anybody needs help, we will be there within 24 hours,” says Joel Likezo, Pastor of the Word of Life International Christian Centre.

After launching in the summer of 2013, the church, on Darlington’s Corporation Road, has become a lifeline for its community, providing help with family issues, fighting extremism and acting as a listening ear for anyone who needs it.

The church has also been working closely with King’s Church to tackle food poverty in the area, and its volunteer run food bank regularly attracts dozens of families needing emergency food and support.

We serve anyone who needs help, regardless of their faith,” says Pastor Likezo.

“There are many families in need and the food bank is here to help them.

“We launched around four months ago and the only down time we had was over Christmas.”

Being nestled in one of Darlington’s most ethnically diverse areas, the food bank not only reaches out to a range of different communities, including Asians and Africans, but a range of religions too.

It stocks a range of food donated by local supermarkets and private donors, as well as halal meat donated by local shops.

 “Many of the Asians here would never go to another food bank,” says Manjang Cham, the food bank’s coordinator.

“A lot of people who come here are Muslims, so we take into consideration about halal food.

“This is the only food bank with multiple nationalities. As a result, I have a good working relationship with people of different faiths.”

Sisters Carol and Judy Barker have been regulars at the food bank for around four weeks.

“Everyone here is really friendly and it is nice to come down to meet people,” says Carol, 54.

“If people need help they should not be scared to come down – people will help you.”

Volunteers at the food bank have also been working with Tracy Freeman, chief executive of homeless charity, First Stop Darlington, to explore ways of expanding the service.

“They are more than just a food bank, they are throwing their doors open to the community,” she says.

 “There is no way of knowing when you might need help. We are just the same people, I am no different to anybody else. Today I can help you, but tomorrow it might be me that needs help.”

The food bank is open every Saturday from 11.30am to 12.30pm.

Donations can be dropped off at the church, or collected by calling 07788-844-226.

Source –  Northern Echo, 19 Jan 2015

North East councils seen as ‘uncaring’ and ‘part of the problem’ by residents facing food poverty

Food poverty is no longer being seen as a welfare issue as those who suffer from it have got so used to turning to charities for help.

In a report, North East academic Dr Jane Midgley said the huge increase in foodbanks run by the voluntary sector has blurred the lines as to who should be caring for the vulnerable and the needy.

She said a squeeze on incomes, benefit sanctions and rocketing utility bills are the drivers of foodbank use, but people instead see their local council as ‘uncaring’ and ‘part of the problem’.

Dr Midgley, whose research formed part of the Feeding Britain report by the All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Hunger in the UK, urged councils to show support for those facing the misery of food poverty and called for more clarity over the root causes of the phenomenon.

She said:

“We are increasingly finding that charities, rather than the state, are supporting people in need who cannot afford to feed themselves.

“While we need to recognise the effort this takes and the difference it makes to peoples lives, the boundaries of this responsibility are far from clear.

“Food poverty is not seen as a welfare issue and because of the way charities and voluntary sector organisations have stepped in, people no longer see local government and the public sector as a source of support.”

Foodbank use exploded in 2014. The Trussell Trust said between April and September 2014, more than 25,000 people were helped by the charity’s Gateshead , Newcastle East and Newcastle West End food banks.

That works out at 4,289 people a month – more than treble the 1,316 people per month in Newcastle and Gateshead who accessed a foodbank in the nine month period between April 2013 and December 2013.

“We are now not just at a critical juncture for how we respond to the issue of food poverty, but also what this means for local policy makers,” Dr Midgley added.

They need to be able to show, in a difficult financial climate, that they still care and want people who live within their towns and cities to live well and flourish.”

 

The Feeding Britain report warned that North families are just one unexpected bill away from food poverty. It said the living wage and speedier benefit payments must form part of the solution.

Councillor Iain Malcolm, leader of South Tyneside Council, said he had “no indication” people were turning on councils and said staff were supportive of people facing the misery of food poverty.

He said:

“We are one of the richest nations in the world and yet we are seeing some of the most terrible cases of poverty in years due to the huge financial pressures being put on hard-working families.

> I do wish politicians would refrain from parrotting hard-working families on issues like this. It implies that those not working for whatever reasion are lazy, and before we know where we are we’re back to the concept of deserving and undeserving poor.

“We are living in a society where rising costs and relentless government cuts across the country are creating much tougher living conditions. Here in South Tyneside we are doing all we can to try and support and protect people who are experiencing the greatest hardship.

“As a council we have committed to the phased introduction of the Living Wage for Council workers from April 2015. This should help people on some of the lowest wages and we hope that other businesses will be able to look to do the same.”

Dave Anderson, MP for Blaydon, said Coalition ministers were to blame for the rise in foodbanks.

He said:

“You can’t sack half a million public sector workers or employ people on exploitative zero hours contracts and expect there to be anything other than a calamitous outcome.

“While ministers enjoy Christmas this week far too many of our people will be struggling, literally, on the breadline. It’s time to stop penalising the poor for the failures of the richest in society.”

Source –  Newcastle Evening Chronicle,  02 Jan 2015

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/