Between April and September 2015, Trussell Trust foodbanks across the UK gave 506,369 three day emergency food supplies to people in crisis compared to 492,641 in the same period last year. 185,218 of the three day supplies went to children. On average, people needed 1.7 foodbank referrals in this six month period, leading us to estimate that approximately 298,000 people are likely to have been unique users.
- Trussell Trust foodbanks have given more emergency food supplies to people in the first six months of the 2015/16 FY than during the same period last year
- Overall rise of three percent on last year’s figures
- Hunger still major concern for low income families
- Foodbanks increasingly providing additional services to help people out of poverty
Benefit delays and changes remain the biggest cause of foodbank use accounting for 43 percent of total referrals (29 percent benefit delay; 14 percent benefit changes), a slight reduction on last year’s 44 percent. Low income has risen slightly as a referral cause from 21 percent to 22 percent.
The charity, which runs a network of 425 foodbanks across the UK, says that numbers needing emergency food remain at worryingly high levels. UK foodbank director Adrian Curtis says: ‘Latest foodbank figures are still at worryingly high levels. We look forward to the day that we can announce a decrease in numbers needing foodbanks, and we welcome the fact that latest national figures show a less dramatic rise. Whilst we hope that this is a sign that economic recovery is giving more people access to secure work, several foodbanks are reporting that some agencies and charities who would normally refer people in crisis to foodbanks have been unable to do so because funding reductions have caused their services to be squeezed or closed. We’re seeing that hunger remains a major issue for low income families and individuals. When the proposed changes to tax credits are implemented, we are concerned that more working families will not be able to make ends meet, and that we could see a substantial rise in foodbank use as a result. As a nation we need to learn more about the realities of life for people struggling on low incomes and make sure that no incomes are too low to live on.’
A working single mum was helped by a foodbank recently when she had a problem with sickness and working tax credits being stopped as a result, she said: ‘It can happen to you just like that. I always thought surely it can’t be me, I still have my job, I can get by. But now I think you can only be a few steps away. It’s all circumstantial. I really don’t know what I would’ve done if the foodbank hadn’t been there’.
‘When you’ve got children that’s the worry, they’ve got needs. If it was just me it would be totally different. But when you have someone depending on you, and when you can’t provide for them, it’s scary, it’s really scary. I was in a very dark place, and I honestly don’t know what I would’ve done if the foodbank hadn’t been there.’
Winter is likely to see a significant rise in numbers of people needing foodbanks, as people on low incomes face choices between eating and heating. In December 2014, referrals to foodbanks were 53 percent higher than the average across other months, with over 130,000 three day food supplies being given to people in crisis in just one month.
Another couple Anne-Marie and Danny, 22, faced a delay in benefits, which hit at the same time as Danny was off work with flu. He received no sick pay and finances got so tight that they were faced with eviction as well as having no money for food.
The couple and their 18-month-old daughter, Tia, were living and sleeping in one room to reduce heating bills. They resorted to borrowing a tin of soup from their neighbours to stop little Tia going hungry. When the foodbank delivered an emergency foodbox to the delighted family there was ice on the inside of their windows.
‘I don’t know what we would have done next if it wasn’t for the foodbank‘ says Danny.
Today’s research from the charity Turn2Us reveals that one in two low income working households are struggling to afford their energy costs, and that 33 percent of those struggling have had to skip meals.
Trussell Trust is currently working with npower to pilot ‘Fuelbanks’ which give prepayment meter top ups for people struggling to afford energy as well as food. This will be the first winter that fuelbanks have been in operation.
Fuelbanks are just one example of a number of initiatives run by Trussell Trust foodbanks to help address the wider issues that contribute to or cause hunger. These ‘More Than Food’ projects aim to help people break out of crisis faster. Early indications show that when people are helped to tackle the root cause of their foodbank referral, they are less likely to need a foodbank again in future. Over 90 percent of Trussell Trust foodbanks now provide additional services alongside emergency food, ranging from debt and money advice to holiday lunch clubs and ‘Eat Well, Spend Less’ courses.
Trussell Trust CEO David McAuley says: ‘We are investing in additional services at foodbanks that help people to break out of crisis faster, and we’re seeing really positive results from this. In one foodbank, after two months, over 90 percent of clients receiving help from their debt and money advice service had either resolved their issues or were close to having done so. But responsibility for helping people out of crisis must not rest with the voluntary sector alone, which is why we also need to see more high-level policy changes that help the poorest and reduce the number of people needing foodbanks in future. We’re seeking to engage politicians across parties in better understanding the reality of hunger and its causes. We want to see hunger and poverty eradicated in the UK, and I’d like to be reporting a massive drop in foodbank usage this time next year.’