Trussell Trust Press Release:
On Tuesday 10th June, Trussell Trust Chairman Chris Mould gave evidence to the Panel on the Independence of the Voluntary Sector, together with a number of other invited organisations.
The Panel is chaired by Sir Roger Singleton. Other members present included Sir Bert Massie, former Chairman of the Disability Rights Commission and Andrew Hind, former Chief Executive of the Charity Commission.
The Panel’s website reads:
“The impact of independence can be huge. However, it may come under threat only gradually, almost imperceptibly, with its loss only being noticed once it’s too late. That’s why the Panel has been set up to ensure that independence is seen as a top priority by the voluntary sector and those with whom it works, to monitor changes and make recommendations affecting all those involved.”
Chris Mould was invited to speak by the Panel after they observed The Trussell Trust’s experiences over the last year. Chris had a 30 minute slot and this article in Civil Society provides an accurate reflection of the discussion.
Chris told the Panel that, in a face-to-face conversation in March 2013 with “someone in power”, he was told that he must think more carefully about how The Trussell Trust speaks about its figures and welfare, otherwise “the government might try to shut you down”.
Chris explained: “This was spoken in anger, but is the kind of dialogue that can occur. It exposes the way people think in the political world about their relationship with the voluntary sector when things are getting difficult. What can we do?”
Chris says: “I told the Panel that I had made the choice to disclose with care our experiences, rather than come to the Panel and keep what really mattered off the table for fear of the consequences.
“What is essential here is that charities are able to retain an independent voice so that they can freely share their experiences, speak up on behalf of their clients and give a voice to people who would not normally have the chance to be heard.
“The experience of charities, whilst sometimes not easy listening, should be welcomed as a helpful source of evidence for politicians across the political spectrum.
“Speaking out on difficult issues is not about party politics, and being free to say what we see as we provide our services should help to create a better future for the poorest and most vulnerable.
“That’s why we chose to give evidence at the Independence Panel and why we value their work in helping to make sure that charities’ voices are able to be heard.”
Source – Welfare News Service, 12 June 2014
Oxfam Press Release: Big rise in UK food poverty sees 20m meals given out in last year
Food banks and food aid charities gave more than 20 million meals last year to people in the UK who could not afford to feed themselves – a 54 per cent increase on the previous 12 months, according to a report published today by Oxfam, Church Action on Poverty and The Trussell Trust.
Below the Breadline warns that there has been a rise in people turning to food banks in affluent areas. Cheltenham, Welwyn Garden City and North Lakes have seen numbers of users double and in some cases treble. The massive rise in meals handed out by food banks and food aid charities is a damning indictment of an increasingly unequal Britain where five families have the same wealth as the poorest 20 per cent of the population.
The report details how a perfect storm of changes to the social security system, benefit sanctions, low and stagnant wages, insecure and zero-hours contracts and rising food and energy prices are all contributing to the increasing numbers of meals handed out by food banks and other charities. Food prices have increased by 43.5 per cent in the past 8 years. During the same time the poorest 20 per cent have seen their disposable income fall by £936 a year.
Mark Goldring, Oxfam Chief Executive, said: “Food banks provide invaluable support for families on the breadline but the fact they are needed in 21st Century Britain is a stain on our national conscience. Why is the Government not looking into this?
“We truly are living through a tale of two Britains; while those at the top of the tree may be benefiting from the green shoots of economic recovery, life on the ground for the poorest is getting tougher.
“At a time when politicians tell us that the economy is recovering, poor people are struggling to cope with a perfect storm of stagnating wages, insecure work and rising food and fuel prices. The Government needs to do more to ensure that the poorest and most vulnerable aren’t left behind by the economic recovery.”
Niall Cooper, Director of Church Action on Poverty said: “Protecting its people from going hungry is one of the most fundamental duties of Government. Most of us assume that when we fall on hard times, the social security safety net will kick in, and prevent us falling into destitution and hunger. We want all political parties to commit to re-instating the safety net principle as a core purpose of the social security system, and draw up proposals to ensure that no one in the UK should go hungry.”
Chris Mould, Chairman of The Trussell Trust said: “Trussell Trust food banks alone gave three days’ food to over 300,000 children last year. Below the Breadline reminds us that Trussell Trust figures are just the tip of the iceberg of UK food poverty, which is a national disgrace.
“The troubling reality is that there are also thousands more people struggling with food poverty who have no access to food aid, or are too ashamed to seek help, as well as a large number of people who are only just coping by eating less and buying cheap food.
“Trussell Trust food banks are seeing parents skipping meals to feed their children and significant repercussions of food poverty on physical and mental health. 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 anytime soon.”
The report will feature on tonight’s Dispatches, to be broadcast at 7.30pm on Channel 4. The documentary, Breadline Kids, will follow three families in their daily lives as they struggle to feed themselves.
In total, Oxfam and Church Action on Poverty estimate that the three main food aid providers – Trussell Trust, Fareshare and Food Cycle – gave out over 20m meals in 2013-4, up from around 13m, a year earlier. The Trussell Trust, the only robust source of statistics showing how many people actually visit food banks, reported in April that 913,138 people were given three days’ emergency food between April 2013 and March 2014 – the equivalent of over 8 million meals.
Benefit sanctions is one of the major factors contributing to the increase in food bank usage. Since the new sanctions policy was implemented in October 2012, over 1 million sanctions have been applied.
A recent report by the Work and Pensions Select Committee recommended that “DWP take urgent steps to monitor the extent of financial hardship caused by benefit sanctions (http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201314/cmselect/cmworpen/479/479.pdf; p.29)
Oxfam, Church Action on Poverty and The Trussell Trust are calling on the Government to urgently draw up an action plan to reverse the rising tide of food poverty and to collect evidence to understand the scale and cause of the increases in food bank usage. The organisations are also calling on all political parties to re-instate the safety net principle as a core purpose of the social security system.
Source – Welfare News Service, 09 June 2014