State of Hunger: It’s not right that growing numbers of migrants without access to benefits are being forced to turn to food banks 

19 Jul

Last week, the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Ending the Need for Food Banks ran a joint event with the APPG on Immigration Law and Policy.

The groups  discussed the links between destitution, food bank use and No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF)  which is when migrants are not allowed to access the benefits system.  

In today’s instalment of the State of Hunger (2021) blog series, we are looking at the impact of the No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF) condition on people who are forced to turn to food banks for support. 

 The NRPF condition prevents a person subject to immigration control from accessing a range of welfare benefits except in a very limited number of cases.

This condition means many people with NRPF are forced to use food banks. Prior toBefore the pandemic, 2 to4% of people referred to food banks were likely subject to the NRPF condition, which rose to 11% in mid-2020. 

State of Hunger 2021 shows that 95% of people referred to food banks in the Trussell Trust network are experiencing destitution, a level of poverty which means they cannot meet all of their basic needs like food, heating and shelter.

While government legislation officially allows people with NRPF to be exempted from the condition if they are destitute or at imminent risk of destitution, our data shows that many destitute people with NRPF are still not getting the support they need, and forced to food banks as a result. 

The issues in the current system were highlighted starkly during the APPG discussion by panellists including Ealing Foodbank Manger Janet Fletcher. Janet explained how the food bank was seeing high numbers of people with NRPF coming to them for support, particularly since the pandemic hit, and that people feel the system is stacked to make them fail. 

People with NRPF coming to the food bank also told Janet how much they wanted to be able to give to society, but the present barriers in place prevented them making the full contribution they could, as well as stopping them from having adequate financial support to afford the essentials.   

Why has need increased particularly among people with NRPF during the pandemic? Evidence suggests that people with NRPF were particularly exposed to income shocks from the economic impact of the pandemic.

People with NRPF are more likely to be self-employed and/or in informal, casual and low-paid types of employment. These forms of employment have been particularly hard hit during the pandemic and those with NRPF have not been able to access government support. Due to the low-paid and precarious nature of their employment, many people with NRPF also have low levels of savings, making it harder to weather the financial shock of lost earnings. 

However, the issue of NRPF and food bank use is not a new one arising solely from the pandemic’s economic impact. State of Hunger 2021 shows that, before the pandemic, almost two in five referral agencies (38%) and a quarter (25%) of food bank managers said that the restricted access to public funds experienced by migrants and refugees had a very high impact on the need for food banks.

They also highlighted the impact of people with NRPF being denied access to local support services, with 31% of referral agencies and 10% of food bank managers saying that the limited or restricted access to local support services (such as welfare advice, debt advice, homelessness services etc.) had a very high impact on food bank need for this group. 

What can be done to prevent people with NRPF from needing to use food banks? The UK government has a major role to play in tackling this problem.

The government should work to increase the accessibility of Local Welfare Assistance Schemes to people in crisis who are subject to NRPF, building on the work local authorities have done during the pandemic. The government can learn from the work of local authorities and its own actions during the pandemic, such as the welcome choice to expand access to crisis support to people subject to NRPF through the Covid Local Support Grant, to ensure that, going forwards, support through LWAS is accessible. 

 It’s not right that anyone in our society experiences destitution, and as an absolute minimum the government must make it easier for people experiencing destitution to have the NRPF condition lifted so that they can access the support they need.  

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Together for change with the Sodexo Stop Hunger Foundation

9 Jul

By Crispin Shingler, corporate partnerships manager at the Trussell Trust

Our vision is for a UK without the need for food banks.

We say this because it’s not right that anyone can’t afford their own food. That’s why we’re working towards a just, compassionate future, where no one should have to use a food bank to get by.

Here at the Trussell Trust, we are proud to continue to partner with Sodexo through its Stop Hunger Foundation, which believes quality of life begins when basic needs are met.

Since 2017 we have been sharing similar principles and working together to support food banks in the Trussell Trust network to help people and families during times of financial crisis.

We are thrilled by the enthusiasm Sodexo has shown towards our Together for Change strategy and belief in our vision.

With support from corporate partners such as Sodexo, we will be working towards helping food banks actively reduce the need for emergency food in their communities.

In 2021, with its donation of £70,000, Sodexo is supporting our new national telephone helpline, Help through Hardship, and will continue to support our core offer of support to the food bank network.

Before the pandemic, people needing a food bank’s support were referred by a range of professionals including teachers, health care and social workers and staff at advice centres such as Citizens Advice.

After being issued with a food bank referral voucher, people then collected emergency food supplies from their local food bank.

During lockdown, many referral partners stopped operating face-to-face services.

It was important therefore, to ensure that referrals to food banks could still be accessed at a time when many referral agencies had reduced services in a way that did not require referral partners, or people needing a food bank’s support, to leave their homes.

This was made possible through a partnership with Citizens Advice (England & Wales) by setting up a new national telephone helpline, Help through Hardship, in April 2020.

More than 21,000 people have accessed the helpline for support to increase their incomes by ensuring they are receiving the benefits they are entitled to.  You can find out more how our Together for Change strategy is having an impact here.

The ongoing support from Sodexo has allowed the Trussell Trust to remain flexible and agile in continuing to support the food bank network to best help people and families in their communities in financial crisis.

This includes our operational teams providing bespoke one to one support to food banks and food banks in the network having access and support to a range of unique cloud-based systems.

The Trussell Trust also works with academics and researchers to understand the root causes of food bank referrals so we can then work with policy makers to push for changes that would better protect people from needing a food bank.

Sodexo employees make up the heart of the Stop Hunger Foundation and are the main force behind both their fundraising and volunteering efforts.  We are very much looking forward to seeing them support food banks in our network by helping to encourage customers offer food donations at the Summer Food Collection hosted by Tesco between 15 and 17 July.

Emma Revie, Chief Executive of the Trussell Trust, said: “It’s not right that any of us are forced to a charity for food but food banks in our network have experienced record need during the pandemic.

“We are delighted the Sodexo Stop Hunger Foundation is supporting us in 2021 as we work towards our vision to end the need for food banks in the UK.  Generous support like this will be essential in helping to ensure food banks in our network are best equipped with the necessary tools to tackle poverty in their communities and Sodexo’s support with Help through Hardship will be central in providing this.”

Gareth John, Head of Trustees at the Sodexo Stop Hunger Foundation, said: “We are pleased to be supporting Help through Hardship, as our aim at the Sodexo Stop Hunger Foundation is to tackle hunger, malnutrition and food security by supporting those most vulnerable in society. The work of Trussell Trust is essential in tackling the root causes of poverty, so our partnership is key in working towards this.”

We’re excited to have the continued support of Sodexo and together in partnership we’re making change happen to end the need for food banks in the UK.

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The State of Hunger: It’s not right that disabled people are being forced to turn to food banks

28 Jun

By Thomas Weekes, research manager at the Trussell Trust

This State of Hunger blog series digs into the reasons why people are forced to turn to food banks for support. Today we look at the link between disability and food bank use

More than six in ten (62%) working-age people referred to food banks in early 2020 were disabled.

That alone is shocking, but when you understand that it is more than three times the rate in the general population it is damning.

This isn’t right – we must do more to support people, so they don’t fall into crisis and need to use a food bank.

Disability often comes with additional costs, such as heating, insurance, equipment and therapies. These costs can dramatically reduce what disabled people have left to cover other costs, putting them at greater risk of hardship.

Our previous blogs have explored how issues with the social security system and health problems can drive people into destitution and we again see these factors at play here.

Issues with the social security system push disabled people into hardship.

The majority (78%) of households affected by disability who were referred to food banks in early 2020 were not in receipt of either Personal Independent Payments (PIP) or the Disability Living Allowance (DLA), the benefits that provide extra money to help disabled people get on with everyday life.

These households experienced the highest levels of material deprivation of households referred to food banks.

So why aren’t disabled people receiving these benefits?

Multiple reports have highlighted the impact on disabled people of the demanding criteria set in order to apply for, and successfully receive PIP. Many disabled people will not meet these criteria and are left without additional support to cover the costs associated with their disability.

When I went through with the Citizens Advice, they were the ones that suggested I apply for PIP because it would help. They went through the application and they told me that, ‘That’s fine. You’ve got suitable reasons for needing help and you will get PIP,’ and when the form came through, I wasn’t entitled. I didn’t score any points. (Disabled person interviewed as part of the State of Hunger)

Others will go through the often-lengthy process of challenging their assessments, and even if eventually successful, will face months, if not years of hardship to get to that stage.

I think it’s one of the PIP things, where they just no matter what, turn you down until you appeal it and gather more evidence, just to be persistent about it. (Disabled person interviewed as part of the State of Hunger)

Level of support is often not enough to prevent hardship, even when disabled people receive it

Even if some people are successful in applying for and receiving disability benefits, the level of support is often not enough to prevent hardship. Disabled people referred to food banks who were in receipt of PIP/DLA were in more acute material deprivation than households not affected by disability.

This suggests that these benefits are not sufficient to meet the extra costs associated with disability and ill health.

The very small numbers of people aged over 65 at food banks helps demonstrate why the inadequacy of the social security system is driving working-age disabled people to food banks.

While ill health and disability among people at food banks worsens with age, the cliff-edge drop in food bank use past age 65 can be in large part explained by the more generous support available for this group. For example, Pension Credit was over twice the value of the Universal Credit standard allowance going into the pandemic, and people over 65 are exempt from some of the most punitive social security policies such as the bedroom tax.

Disabled people experience higher levels of debt

We have previously written about how people referred to food banks face high levels of debt.

Households affected by disability were on average in greater levels of debt than other households referred to food banks. 23% of households with a disability were losing more than a quarter of their income on repaying debt or loans, compared to 14% among households not affected by disability. Four in ten (41%) of disabled people were in debt to the DWP.

The UK Government needs to develop a plan to end the need for food banks – this should recognise the experiences of disabled people

To end the need for food banks we must ensure our UK social security system provides everyone with enough to afford the essentials.

This should start with making the £20 weekly increase to Universal Credit permanent and extending it to legacy benefits such as Employment and Support Allowance, which people affected by disability disproportionately rely upon.

The Government should develop a plan in partnership with people with lived experience of poverty, including disabled people and carers. This would help identify the changes needed to disability benefits such as PIP, to ensure fair and consistent access and a sufficient level of income to afford the essentials.

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