Growing numbers of people on low incomes in the North are turning to food banks to survive, new research reveals.
Figures released today by the Trussell Trust, which runs a network of 400 food banks across the UK, show that between April and September 2014, over 25,000 people were helped by the charity’s Gateshead, Newcastle East and Newcastle West End food banks alone.
That breaks down to 4,289 a month – more than treble the 1,316 people per month in Newcastle and Gateshead who accessed a food bank in the nine month period between April 2013 and December 2013.
Meanwhile a further 912 were catered for at Middlesbrough’s food bank during the six-month period.
But it is Newcastle West End food bank which is bearing the biggest strain with 3,640 people accessing it per month between April and September 2014, making it the most used food bank in the whole of the UK.
The Trust’s report found delays and changes to benefits continue to be the biggest overall trigger for food bank visits at 45%, while a growing reason is low income at 22%.
David McAuley, Trussell Trust chief executive, said:
“Whilst the rate of new food banks opening has slowed dramatically, we’re continuing to see a significant increase in numbers helped by food banks.
“Incomes for the poorest have not been increasing in line with inflation and many, whether in low paid work or on welfare, are not yet seeing the benefits of economic recovery. Instead, they are living on a financial knife edge where one small change in circumstances or a ‘life shock’ can force them into a crisis where they cannot afford to eat.”
Earlier this month, it was reported that Gateshead food bank found the organisation had seen a 27% year-on-year increase in people using the service since it opened in 2012, handing out 52 tonnes of food in that time.
Ian Britton, secretary of Beacon Lough Baptist Church which is part of Gateshead food bank, said:
“The figures are in line with our experiences on the ground. People are coming into food banks every week across the North East and numbers are steadily increasing.
“Demand is still unfortunately on the increase and our volunteers are seeing more people referred to us by professionals.
“We are grateful to everybody across Tyneside who donate to food banks because they allow us to provide for those most in need.”
Every time somebody visits a food bank they are given three days’ worth of food.
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 23 Nov 2014
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.
“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 firstname.lastname@example.org
Nearly 60,000 people sought emergency food from the Trussell Trust in 2013-14 compared with just 10,510 in the previous financial year.
Across the country 45% said problems with benefits had driven them to claim, while 20% cited low income. And since April 2010 the total number of referrals in Britain has risen from 61,000 to over 900,000 – up by a factor of fifteen.
Trust chairman Chris Mould called the figures “shocking” and warned things were getting “worse rather than better” for the Northern poor.
He said: “This figure is just the tip of the iceberg of UK food poverty. It doesn’t include those helped by other providers, people who are too ashamed to seek help, or the large number who are only just coping by eating less and buying cheap food.
“It’s been extremely tough for a lot of people, with parents not eating properly in order to feed their children and more people than ever experiencing seemingly unfair and harsh benefits sanctions.
“Unless there is determined policy action to ensure that the benefits of national economic recovery reach people on low incomes we won’t see life get better for the poorest any time soon.”
The figures do not exclude repeat visitors but simply record the number of people cited on vouchers given by jobcentres, doctors and social services to claim food.
They are likely to inflame controversy over the link between food banks and the government’s welfare reforms. Critics claim organisations like the Trussell Trust are becoming an unacknowledged and unpaid part of the welfare system.
Changes since 2012 include raising the minimum jobseekers’ sanction from one to four weeks and the start of the so-called ‘bedroom tax’.
Margaret Nelson, the Trust’s North East spokeswoman, said benefit sanctions were behind much of the rise and that many food bank users were “suicidal” when they came in.
She claimed some had benefits stopped for missing appointments even when they had phoned and been given permission.
A spokesman for the Department for Work and Pensions said: “We’re spending £94bn a year on working age benefits so that the welfare system provides a safety net to millions of people who are on low incomes or unemployed so they can meet their basic needs.
“The OECD say there are fewer people struggling with their food bills compared with a few years ago, benefit processing times are improving and even the Trussell Trust’s own research recognises the effect their marketing activity has on the growth of their business.
“The truth is that the employment rate is the highest it’s been for five years and our reforms will improve the lives of some of the poorest families in our communities by promoting work and helping people to lift themselves out of poverty.”
He cited an ONS survey which found fewer people saying it was “difficult to get by” in 2012 than 2010 and claimed benefit clearance times are “improving year on year.”
And he said: “There is no robust evidence that welfare reforms or benefit administration are linked to increased use of food banks.”
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Tory peer David Freud told the Lords last year that food bank use was driven by “supply”, saying more people were going because the food was free and available.
But a three-year study by Sheffield University this month argued rising demand was to blame, with benefit cuts and sanctions seen as a major cause.
The DWP insists it does not “refer” people to food banks but merely “signposts” them – a distinction not made by the banks themselves.
Meanwhile over 35 Anglican bishops and 600 church leaders will call for “urgent action” from the three main party leaders.
Reverend Mark Bryant, the Anglican bishop of Jarrow, praised food banks’ efficiency and kindness but said society had “seriously got something wrong” to need them at all.
He said: “Something in a region of a third of the people they are helping are simply people whose benefits have been delayed.
“These are not people who are trying to work the system or anything like this. These are people who are entitled to benefits and the benefits system hasn’t delivered on time.
“You go to places like this, and you hear the stories, and you simply come away thinking ‘something isn’t right’. We have seriously got something wrong when people who for a whole variety of reasons are very vulnerable cannot afford either to feed themselves or to feed their families.”
Mr Bryant spoke at Gateshead Food Bank while on a joint visit with the Catholic Bishop of Hexham and Newcastle, Seamus Cunningham.
Source – Newcastle Journal 16 April 2014