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The Trussell Trust says this year has seen the sharpest increase in the number of people, many of them parents, needing emergency food parcels.
Demand for food banks rose to a record high this year as the number of people needing emergency food parcels increased by 23% on last year’s figures, according to new figures released by the Trussell Trust charity.
They show that between April to September 2019 823,145 three-day emergency food parcels were given to people in crisis in the UK; more than a third of these (301,653) went to children. Many are the children of working parents.
The main reasons for people needing emergency food are low benefit income (36%) and delays (18%) or changes (16%) to benefits being paid.
A report published last week by the Trussell Trust showed the average weekly income of households at food banks is only £50 after paying rent, that one in five have no money coming in at all in the month before being referred for emergency food and that 94% of people at food banks are destitute. The report blames problems with the benefits system [including the five-week delay when people apply for Universal Credit and its sanctions system], ill health or challenging life experiences and a lack of local support.
The Trussell Trust says that, although Universal Credit is not the only benefit payment people at food banks experience problems with, the majority (65%) of food bank referrals made in April – Sept 2019 due to a delay in benefits being paid in the UK were linked to Universal Credit.
People have to wait at least five weeks – and often longer – with no money when they apply for Universal Credit and can be offered an Advance Payment, but this is a loan that must be paid back, often forcing people into debt, says the Trust.
It is calling for the Government to end the five-week wait for Universal Credit, to ensure benefit payments cover the cost of living and to invest in local emergency support for people in crisis.
The Trussell Trust’s chief executive Emma Revie said: “More people than ever before are being forced to food banks’ doors. Our benefits system is supposed to protect us all from being swept into poverty, but currently thousands of women, men and children are not receiving sufficient protection from destitution.
“This is not right. But we know this situation can be fixed – our benefits system could be the key to unlocking people from poverty. This General Election, all political parties must pledge to protect people from hunger by ensuring everyone has enough money for the basics. We want our next government to start working towards a future where no one needs a food bank by ending the five week wait for Universal Credit; ensuring benefit payments cover the cost of living; and investing in local emergency support for people in crisis.
“Together, these three changes will put money back into the pockets of people who most need our support. It’s in our power as a country to end the need for food banks. This can change.”