To reach a UK without the need for food banks, we must address structural racism

7 May

Marcia Bluck, director of diversity and inclusion 

I want to start with a disclaimer – I’m not a victim. I create my own seat at the table. But we need to acknowledge why that can be harder for some to do than others 

Last month, the Commission on Race & Ethnic Disparities’ report was published, arguing that the term ‘institutional racism’ is overused, and that while impediments and disparities do exist for people from ethnic minority backgrounds, ‘very few of them are directly to do with racism’.  

Organisations like Runnymede Trust, #CharitySoWhite and others have been leading the way in asking how this argument can be made when evidence shows us that people from racialised communities are more likely to die from Covid-19 than white ethnic groups,(1) black young mothers are four times more likely to die in childbirth than young white mothers,(2) black people are over-represented in our criminal system and more likely to get harsher sentences for the same crimes as others, and black Caribbean children are more likely to be excluded from school.(3)

So, what does this have to do with food banks?  

At the Trussell Trust, our vision is a UK without the need for food banks. We gather robust evidence about what leaves people without enough money for the basics and that shows us many people who need food banks are there because of barriers encountered due to protected characteristics like disability. Our 2019 State of Hunger research show1 in 6 people who need food banks in our network either had or lived with someone with a physical disability and 1 in 10 people have a reported learning disability or live with someone who does.(4)

State of Hunger also found that Black people are over-represented among people who need food banks compared to the UK-born working age population – something we’ve seen confirmed again through research in June and July of 2020, which showed people identifying as Black or Black British were significantly overrepresented during the Covid-19 crisis among people who need support from a food bank (9% vs 3% of the UK population).(5)

This isn’t right. 

We need to do more as an organisation to understand why there is this disproportionate risk of needing a food bank so we can work to tackle it. And that’s why meaningful equity, diversity and inclusion work is core to our mission of ending the need for food banks. If we’re to genuinely address the root causes of poverty and build a future where we all have enough money for the basics, we must ensure that diverse people with lived experiences of poverty shape our work, and do our part to help dismantle the structural discrimination that cuts across our society and locks people in poverty.

We are working on becoming a leader on equity, diversity and inclusion at the Trussell Trust. We’ve started making changes (which you can read more about here), but we’re at the beginning of a longer-term process and we have a lot more work to do. Sustainable, authentic and accountable transformation takes time. 

We’re exploring how to meaningfully embed equity, diversity and inclusion in all of our upcoming work – from equipping and creating resources for both our staff and volunteers through to programmes offering support to people who need food banks and the ways we build public will for a future where everyone has enough money for food. We also recognise that the privilege that many  have benefitted from needs to be used more - not just to challenge inequalities people face due to things like race, disability and socio-economics, but also to challenge the structures in our society that create those inequalities and lock people in poverty.   

We can become a country where no one needs a food bank. But if we’re going to get there, we need to understand the inequality so many people face in the UK today, and confront the reasons why that inequality exists on a structural level.  

 


 

  1. https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/925135/S0778_Drivers_of_the_higher_COVID-19_incidence__morbidity_and_mortality_among_minority_ethnic_groups.pdf 
  2. https://www.npeu.ox.ac.uk/assets/downloads/mbrrace-uk/reports/maternal-report-2020/MBRRACE-UK_Maternal_Report_Dec_2020_-_Ex_Summary_v10.pdf
  3. https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/643001/lammy-review-final-report.pdf and https://www.theguardian.com/education/2021/mar/24/exclusion-rates-black-caribbean-pupils-england 
  4. https://www.stateofhunger.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/State-of-Hunger-Report-November2019-Digital.pdf
  5. https://www.trusselltrust.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2020/09/the-impact-of-covid-19-on-food-banks-report.pdf

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The pandemic and food banks: what’s happened and where do we go next?

1 Apr

Blog by Emma Revie, chief executive of the Trussell Trust 

There’s something about this time of year that often makes me feel both reflective and hopeful. And this Easter, with the recent anniversary of the UK’s first lockdown, that feels especially heightened. So I wanted to share with you the challenges food banks across the country have faced over the past year, how we’ve responded, and what this means for what we’re doing next.

What were the challenges?

When the pandemic first hit, food banks faced four key challenges:

  1. How to help people access support safely?
  2. How to ensure there would be enough food at food banks so emergency support could be there for anyone struggling to afford the basics?
  3. How to link people who could volunteer safely up with food banks?
  4. How to ensure the public and policy makers were aware of what was happening, and knew what was needed to address the reasons why people didn’t have enough money in the first place?

What did we do?

Food banks have worked tirelessly over the last year to provide crucial support to people on a scale that has never been needed before, and to push for changes that would prevent people needing emergency food in the future. We’ve been supporting food banks in the following ways.

To help connect people with support safely, we:

  • Stepped up the rollout of our e-referral system rapidly, allowing organisations to refer to a food bank in our network without the need for an in-person meeting or paper voucher to be exchanged. In March, only 15% of referrals to food banks were e-referrals. Now, 68% of referrals are e-referral.
  • Set up a free national helpline in partnership with Citizens Advice (England & Wales). In April this helped people access food at a time when many local agencies who refer to food banks were closed and since May it has been staffed by specialist advisors, able to support callers to maximise their income and identify wider advice needs.
  • Provided ongoing support and guidance to our food bank network about the implications of rapidly changing government guidance, and distributed over £2 million of funding to food banks through two special coronavirus grants:
    • Emergency grants – for costs like short-term staffing, warehouse space, protective equipment, food and the transport and delivery of food
    • Recovery grants – for proactive projects that respond to the ongoing impact of the pandemic, eg services that make sure people are getting all of the money they’re entitled to.
  • Supported food banks to deliver emergency food to people: through a mixture of guidance and by building on our relationship with British Gas. More than 1,700 volunteers from British Gas supported most of the food banks in our network in Britain, contributing 58,656 hours to deliver vital food. The equivalent of 4 million meals for people in crisis were delivered by British Gas volunteers.

To help ensure emergency food was there for people, we:

  • Built on our long-standing partnership with Tesco, who generously donated £7.5million worth of food to support food banks during the early stages of the pandemic.
  • Partnered with British Gas, Palletforce, XPO and The Entertainer to get this food to food banks through a distribution network serving England, Wales and Scotland. This team effort across a range of industries played a pivotal part in food banks’ ability to continue supporting people.

To help link volunteers up with food banks, we:

  • Brought forward the launch of our volunteering platform. With around 51% of regular volunteers at food banks in our network over 65 and many people needing to shield, self-isolate or provide child-care, being able to connect new volunteers with food banks needing help was vital. This system helps food banks to easily advertise and recruit to specific volunteer roles, and then manage and communicate with volunteers easily.

To help campaign for long-term change, we:

  • Gathered and shared data on the increasing level of need for food banks throughout the summer and commissioned research from Herriot-Watt University to forecast food bank use in winter 2020/21.
  • Presented evidence to a number of select committees, worked alongside partners across the charity sector, and mobilised supporters across the UK to encourage their MPs to back the policy changes we knew would make a difference. This influencing with partners helped secure £63m during summer and £170m for December-March 2021 for local authorities in England to provide support to people struggling to afford the basics, and the six month extension to the £20 a week increase in universal credit payments. But we know there is much more that must be done to strengthen our social security system, and we’ll be pushing for more change.
  • Worked with a range of media outlets and influencers like Liam Payne and Michael McIntyre to draw attention to food bank use, creating a range of hard-hitting news stories and compelling features to build public understanding of why some people were being left without enough money for the basics.

What next?

The last year has shown just how willing people are to put their compassion into practice, on a scale we had never imagined would be needed.

During the first six months of the pandemic, food banks in our network provided more than 1.2 million emergency parcels to people unable to afford the basics, a 47% increase compared to the same period in 2019. The phenomenal commitment of food bank staff and volunteers, and the incredible support shown by charity partners, churches, corporate partners and the public meant food banks were able to provide emergency support to thousands and thousands of people struggling to afford the very basics.

But the last year has also shown us people’s real desire for longer-term change, for change that addresses the root causes of why so many people are being left without enough money in the first place – people want to show compassion, but they also want to see justice.

With things likely to change in the coming months, as a country we have a decision to make: either we accept food banks as part of our ‘normal’, or we work to create a more dignified, compassionate and just society where all of us have enough money for the essentials.

For me, there’s no question – it can never be normal that any of us need a charity’s help to put food on the table. When one person goes hungry, our whole society is weaker. That’s why throughout this coming year we’ll be working closely with food banks across our network, partners and people like you, to build a hunger free future.

If you want to join the movement for a hunger free future, click here to find out more.

A UK where no one needs emergency food might is ambitious, but the last year has shown us that if we work together, anything is possible. Together, we can create a hunger free future where none of us go hungry because none of us will allow it.

 

 

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A village bands together to push for a Hunger Free Future

22 Dec

Our campaign engagement officer, Hannah Mae Trow, explains how one village has pulled together to push for a #HungerFreeFuture in the lead up to this Christmas. 

 This year has been incredibly difficult for so many people across the country. We’ve all been hit by something unexpected and outside of our control, and for thousands of us that has meant not having enough money for the basics. Food banks in our network have seen more people than ever before being forced to them for support. This isn’t right.  

But we can’t ignore that this year has also shown us is just how much people care about each other – and it couldn’t have been clearer in 2020 just how much people want to act on that compassion, and work for a future where there’s justice for all of us.  

Which brings us to the village of Quidhampton, in Wiltshire.  

I’ve worked with campaigners and activists for a few years at the Trussell Trust now, but I’m still surprised at just how much people come together to do amazing feats of community activism – both online and ‘in real life’. 

So I was delighted to hear that in Quidhampton, not too far from where I live, members of the village community banded together to support the fight for a Hunger Free Future. Villagers proudly displayed their plate protest plates to tell neighbours about the campaign, collected food across the neighbourhood and donated money to support our work. 

Bea Tilbrook the editor of the Quidhampton Village Newspaper, regularly puts out mentions of our  work and of collections happening in the village. She sent out a village-wide email about the plate protest, and it wasn’t long before many community members were joining together to take action: 

Jane at Alexandra Cottages not only put up her plate protest poster in the window to explain why she wants a Hunger Free Future, but also generously donated £200 to help us in the fight to end the need for food banks. 

Nick and Tat from Coronation Square regularly do neighbourhood food collections, and this time they manage to collect over 38kg of food and toiletries for Salisbury Foodbank. 

And many other members of the village proudly displayed their posters in their homes, in their car windows, and the bus shelter.  

Jane explains:  

‘I think it is a sad statement of the UK that so many people need to use a food bank. I think it is truly wonderful what you (Trussell) do to support people in crisis, but we can do so much better as a country than this. Universal Credit is not a one size fits all, and the government really needs to look at it and put the human element back in to its policies.

The country is full of good people and heroes, like your volunteers and NHS workers. I believe we all want to see the end of poverty, and we need the government to do their bit to make it happen.

I am supporting the campaign (Hunger Free Future) and putting my money where my mouth is. I hope you get many people supporting you too to end the need for food banks.’ 

Together, thanks to people like Jane, Bea, Nick and Tat showing how everyone can get involved, the village of Quidhampton is calling for change. 

Which made me think: how many other communities would come together to take action too?

So my challenge for the new year, if you’ll take it, is to see if you can rally your community to join the #HungerFreeFuture campaign. There are so many different ways people can get show their support. Sign up here to find out the different ways you, and your neighbours, could get involved.  

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How people who have used Manchester Foodbank and the team there are pushing for change together

18 Dec

Lauren Tunnicliffe, project manager of Manchester Central Foodbank, shares more about Can You Hear Me Now?, a listening campaign and creative participation project that is bringing people who have used the food bank together with the food bank team to push for longer term change. 

 “Changing the world is a big job, but this is a great place to start.”

During the recent US election the topics of voter suppression and the disenfranchisement of minority groups and poor voters were often at the forefront of the conversation. But US politics is not the only place where people who are experiencing poverty and destitution are prevented from being able to ask for what they need. From working at Manchester Central Foodbank we know that people here in Manchester without enough money are denied the autonomy and confidence to advocate for themselves in every aspect of their daily lives. On top of this, those creating anti-poverty strategies have historically been slow to catch on to the fact that they should be led by the voices and expertise of people they are supposed to be helping. We know now that in order to demand change and erase the need for food banks, we must be driven by those who have experienced that need.

Can You Hear Me Now? Is a listening campaign and creative participation project that we’ve been working on with Manchester based artist-led community organisation, Get It Done. Throughout the project we’ll be listening to the stories of people who come to our food bank, and learning about what would need to happen in their lives to make the need for food banks a thing of the past. 

Alongside this the wonderful artists at Get It Done have designed an exciting and inspiring activity pack, filled with creative activities that prompt the reader to think about ways they can care for themselves, their communities, and the world. We’ll be giving these packs out in our food parcels, and working with local schools and frontline organisations to help children and adults reimagine their communities and think about the change they want to see. We’ll be using our platform as a food bank to boost the voices of the people we have spoken to and who have created pieces of work using the activity packs, through exhibitions, online archiving, and targeted campaigning. 

Our hope is that we will be able to work with people who’ve used the food bank to co-create meaningful campaigns for change. We want the voices and stories of people experiencing poverty to inform both how we run our food bank, and how we fight for a system that works for everyone. Simultaneously we hope the activities in the packs will give people the opportunity to mindfully take a break from the pressures of everyday life, and think creatively about what they would change about the world.

Right now we’re fundraising to be able to put these activity packs together. We’ll be professionally printing the activity booklet, and providing the craft supplies to go with it. If you want to help make this project happen, you can donate either at our justgiving page, or by paying it forward, and buying one of our activity booklets, at a price that will cover the cost of putting another pack together for someone receiving a food parcel.

As with all things right now, the coronavirus crisis has added another layer of meaning, significance, and logistical difficulty to this project. You don’t need us to tell you that this is a scary and worrying time for people in poverty. People’s lives are more turbulent and unpredictable than ever, but sometimes it can take the systems in our normal lives breaking down for us to be able to build them up again. Right now, the world is going through changes on a scale that many of us won’t ever see again in our lifetimes, and we want to make sure these changes are driven by the people that they will affect the most.

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The Long Read: Millions of people are experiencing destitution – why, and what can we do about it?

9 Dec

Our series of blogs deep-diving into what’s happening in food banks continues, as Research Manager Tom Weekes delves into today’s new report on destitution from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. 

Destitution. A word that conjures images of complete poverty, something that surely couldn’t happen in a modern society? Yet todays shocking release by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) reminds us that not only is destitution common across the UK, it is a fast-growing problem.  

This is something that food banks in the Trussell Trust network will unfortunately be well aware of. Food banks have long been at the frontline of destitution  our latest data shows that 94 per cent of people referred to food banks in our network were classed as destitute. 

JRF’s research estimates that more than 2.4 million people experienced destitution at some point in 2019, including over half a million children. These figures are up by a staggering 52 and 54 per cent respectively since they were last measured in 2017.  

Given the significant economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, the number of people experiencing destitution is likely to have been even higher during 2020. Food banks have seen record levels of need this year already. The Trussell Trust recorded a 47% increase in the number of parcels distributed during the first six months of the crisis in comparison to the same period in 2019.  

What does destitution mean 

There are many different definitions of poverty used in the UK, but in short destitution means people are unable to afford the absolute essentials that we all need. These include (brackets detail how they are measured) 

  1. Shelter (someone has slept rough for one or more nights) 
  1. Food (someone has had fewer than two meals a day for two or more days) 
  1. Heating their home (someone has  been unable to heat their home for five or more days) 
  1. Lighting their home (someone has been unable to light their home for five or more days) 
  1. Clothing and footwear (appropriate for the weather) 
  1. Basic toiletries (such as soap, shampoo, toothpaste and a toothbrush 

Why are people falling into destitution?  

The report highlights a number of factors that drive destitution including issues with the administration of benefits, the sufficiency of benefit payments and eligibility for benefits.  

Some of these issues have been partially – and temporarily – addressed during the Covid-19 crisis. We have seen welcome steps by the government to support people, including the temporary £20 weekly increase  to Universal Credit and essential investment in Local Welfare Assistance in England. However, this report highlights the issue of debt to the government. It finds that the five-week wait for the first UC payment, and the reduction in payments people then get when they have to pay back an advance taken to cover that wait,  is a core driver of destitution.   

A woman interviewed for the JRF study states:  

“… as soon as my claim went through … I owed them £514 … Because for six weeks I had no income, so when I got the advance, that went on everything that I [already] owed … Then by the time I got to December – you’re just never catching up, because of the way it starts. Hence, the reason that we had to use a food bank to even survive.”  

This was reflected in our recent work which detailed that almost half of people who were supported by food banks in the Trussell Trust’s network this summer were having money taken by the government from their benefit payments, with close to three in four of those on Universal Credit repaying an advance payment.  

What can we do?  

This isn’t right and the government can take immediate action by:  

  • Suspending benefit deductions during the winter months until there is a more just  system for repaying advance payments and other debts to the DWP.  

With the uplift to Universal Credit ending at the end of March 20201, the government must also make the right choice in supporting people from April next year. They need to:  

  • Lock in the £20 rise to Universal Credit, and extend it to people currently excluded.  

This increase has been a lifeline,  essential in preventing many more people falling into destitution. Removing it would be a hammer blow to families relying on it to get by across the country. That is why we have joined with JRF and organisations across the anti-poverty sector to urge the government to Keep the lifeline.  

We can create a future where destitution is something we only read about in history books – a Hunger Free Future, where we all have enough money for the basics. If you want to help end this injustice for good, join us in the campaign for a Hunger Free Future today. 

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Help us raise £1 million to help ensure no one struggles to afford the basics, this Christmas and beyond

2 Dec

This week we have exciting news –  a small group of incredibly generous supporters has offered to match any donations given to the Trussell Trust between today and Christmas, up to a total of £500,000 

This is an extraordinary opportunity to raise £1 million over the next few weeks – with every pound being used to build a better Christmas and a Hunger Free Future for families across the UK.  

Please donate today.

This couldn’t have come at a more vital time. Food banks in our network are set to be busier than ever this winter, and could give out an emergency food parcel every 9 seconds to people across our country 

This is not right. It’s time to end the injustice of people needing food banks – with your help, we can come together to make that happen. 

We know what it’ll take. Our vision is for a UK without the need for food banks – you can read our new five year plan here for how we’ll work towards a just, compassionate future where no one needs to use a food bank to get by.  

£1 million will help us:  

  1. Offer a range of support to food banks helping people unable to afford food right now  
  1. Develop projects with food banks that help prevent people needing support a second time – eg through projects which ensure people are getting all the money they’re entitled to  
  1. Campaign for the longer-term changes that we know will bring us closer to a future where everyone can afford the essentials.  

Our vision for a UK without the need for food banks is ambitious but we know that if we work together, we can reach it.   

This year we’ve already made incredible changes to the way we live, work and look after each other. If we take action together now, we can start to build a future where we can all afford the essentials. 

It’s never been easier to help – simply click the button below, make your donation and know whatever you’re able to donate will be doubled. 

Please donate today. 

Thank you so much for your support – with your donation today, we can build a future where nobody needs to go without the basics, this Christmas and beyond.  

 

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Almost half of people at food banks have money taken by government from benefit payments during economic crisis

1 Dec
  • The Trussell Trust says 47% of households surveyed at food banks during the summer owed money to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) due to loans and overpayments of benefits – this is compared to 37% at the start of the year before the pandemic hit
  • Almost three out of four households on Universal Credit at food banks over the summer were repaying an advance payment to the government, a loan primarily taken out to cover the five-week wait for a first payment
  • The charity is urging the government to stop taking money from people’s pockets through the winter months until a more just system is put in place and is asking everyone to join its campaign to build a Hunger Free Future

The Trussell Trust has published a new report Lift the Burden revealing that one in two households at food banks (47%), already struggling to make ends meet, face the stress of having money deducted from their benefits payments by the government.

The charity says 73% of households on Universal Credit at food banks over the summer were repaying an advance payment to the government. Advance payments are largely taken out by people  to cover the five-week wait for a first payment. This is because everyone who applies for Universal Credit must wait at least five weeks for their money to start coming through – the government offers people a one-off payment to cover this wait, but that payment must be paid back.

Paying back an advance payment, or repaying an overpayment after a system error, makes it harder for people to afford the essentials and can affect people’s mental health. More than half of households (53%) at food banks where someone was living with mental health problems reported they owed money to the government through a loan. This compares to 30% of households which did not report anyone with mental health problems.

The charity is urging the government to stop taking money from people’s pockets through the winter months until a more responsible and just system is put in place. This should help bring government debt collection closer to that practised in the private sector which has improved its practice significantly, assessing people’s ability to pay before recovering debts.

It is also urging everyone to help end the need for food banks by joining its Hunger Free Future campaign.

Emma Revie, chief executive at the Trussell Trust said:

“Our welfare system should increase people’s security, not suffering. But right now, the government is taking money from the benefit payments of many people using food banks. Taking money off payments to repay these debts makes it much harder for people to afford the essentials and can impact on people’s mental health – this isn’t okay.

“With the pandemic continuing to hit people’s incomes, the government must pause taking money from benefit payments over the winter months until a more responsible and just system that offers security and support is in place. This would help people on the lowest incomes to keep every penny of their benefits to help afford the absolute essentials, instead of needing to turn to a food bank for help.

“We need change this Christmas to create a system that works for everyone. That’s why we’re also calling on everyone to help end the need for food banks by joining our campaign to create a Hunger Free Future.”

ENDS

 

Contact 

Contact the Trussell Trust Press Office at 020 3137 3699 or press@trusselltrust.org 

Notes to editors:

Heriot-Watt University surveyed 435 adults aged 18+ that needed to use a food bank across Trussell Trust food banks in Great Britain between 22nd June and 31st July 2020. The survey found:

  • 47% of people surveyed said that they or their partner currently owed money to the DWP because of a loan such as a benefit advance or budgeting loan.
  • 73% of people in receipt of universal credit (259 adults aged 18+) said that their or their partner’s income was currently being deducted to repay Universal Credit advance payments

Mental health: 53% of people that said that someone in their household was living with mental health problems reported they owed money to the DWP through a loan. This compares to 30% of people who did not report anyone in their household with mental health problems. People were asked whether anyone in their household had any health problems such as anxiety, stress, depression or any other mental health problems.

Earlier in the year Heriot-Watt University surveyed 716 adults aged 18+ that needed to use a food bank across the Trussell Trust network in Great Britain – between mid-January and early March 2020. The survey found:

  • 37% of people surveyed said that they or their partner currently owed money to the DWP because of a loan such as a benefit advance or budgeting loan.
  • 51% of people in receipt of universal credit (411 adults aged 18+) said that their or their partners income was currently being deducted to repay Universal Credit advance payments

About the Trussell Trust:

  • We’re here to end the need for food banks in UK.
  • We support a UK-wide network of more than 1,300 food bank centres and together we provide emergency food and support to people locked in poverty, and campaign for change to end the need for food banks in the UK.
  • Our most recent figures for the number of emergency food supplies provided by our network: https://www.trusselltrust.org/news-and-blog/latest-stats/
  • The Trussell Trust’s food bank network brings together volunteers, staff and supporters of all faiths and none to make a difference. Local churches play a vital part in this work, with around 12,000 churches actively involved in donating food, and providing venues, volunteers and financial support for food banks.

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The long read: Food banks have been busier than ever – but there’s still time for change this winter

13 Nov

We’re starting a new series where our team deep-dive into what’s happening in food banks. To kick things off, Research Manager Tom Weekes breaks down what we’ve seen in the first six months of the pandemic, and what we’re expecting this winter.  

Yesterday we released figures showing that food banks in the Trussell Trust network have given out a record 2,600 food parcels a day to children since the start of the pandemic. Breaking it down further  a child needed support from a food bank every 34 seconds between April and September 

Clearly the economic consequences of the pandemic have been devastating, leaving many unable to afford the basics without further support. In many ways this has driven change for food banks – with many new people needing support, at the same time as they’ve had to make operational changes like extending opening hours, switching to deliver food and becoming Covid secure.  

However, while some things have changed generally the underlying reasons why people need support have notAs before the crisis, the key issue is a fundamental lack of income leaving people destitute and unable to afford the essentials. Dramatic increases to the number of people applying for welfare support,  shortfalls between peoples living costs and their income, and gaps in or lack of eligibility for support, have all driven levels of need.  

95% of people that needed to use food banks during the pandemic were living in relative poverty after housing costs. 

Food banks came into the crisis recording their hardest ever year  

Over 1,300 centres distribute emergency food parcels to people in need in the Trussell Trust UK wide network. To receive a food parcel, you need to be given a voucher after being referred by an agency like Citizens Advice. This voucher contains information such as the number, and age of the people being supportedWhen these vouchers are fulfilled the data is uploaded by the food banks, allowing the Trussell Trust to evidence the number of people that are being supported by the network.  

This data shows that food banks in our network saw successive years of increasing need coming into the crisis. In the last five years, food bank use increased by 74%. In 2019/20 alone there was a 18% increase on the previous year.  

Reshaping the landscape 

Even from these record levels , the pandemic has reshaped the landscape of destitution and poverty in the United Kingdom. More than 5.7 million people were receiving Universal Credit in October, a 90% increase since March 2020. Our estimate based off work from Heriot-Watt University suggest hundreds of thousands of people will be swept into destitution by the end of this winter. During the pandemic food banks have been on the frontline of the crisis, and we reported a 47 per cent increase in the number of parcels distributed in the 6 months to September 2020, compared to the same period last year. In this period 38 per cent of parcels went to children – despite those aged 0-16 making up just 20 per cent of the UK population.

These figures represent just the tip of the iceberg, and do not include the countless people who were helped by people in their community, by independent food banks, and local authorities.  

Looking to the future 

At the Trussell Trust we expect this to be our busiest ever winter. We cannot accept this. The government must do everything it can to continue to protect people from falling into destitution and providing support to lift those experiencing it out.  

Currently, for many people, work cannot be the solution. The below graph uses a baseline approach to show the change in both redundancies and the number of jobs availableVacancies remain significantly below pre-pandemic levels, while redundancies have continued to increase. 


**Source: LFS: ILO redundancy level (thousands): UK: All: SA: Figures refer to the number of people made redundant in the three months previous to their interview. So, for the data labelled as August 2020 that refers to the period from the beginning of April to the end of September 2020. Vacancies and Jobs in the UK: November 2020: Vacancy data refers to a three-month average. The latest data labelled as August 2020 is an average of August – October 2020 

This makes it more important than ever that we have a functioning safety net that fully supports people 

We need to:  

Suspend benefit deductions until there is a fair system for repaying advance payments and other debts to the DWP.  

Lock in the £20 rise to Universal Credit, and extend it to those people currently excluded 

  • With millions more now receiving UC removing this would drive many into poverty and destitution. Our work with Heriot-Watt estimates that removing the uplift would increase use of food banks in our network by nine per cent next year. 
  • One in three (32%) households that were supported by a food bank in June or July and claiming benefits were not claiming UC, meaning they have not benefited from the uplift 

It’s not right that any of us are forced to food banks. But together , we can build a hunger free future. We’re asking anyone who wants to end the injustice of people needing food banks to join the campaign for a Hunger Free Future.  

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The government has stepped up to provide vital local welfare – time to fix the national system too

11 Nov

Ellie Thompson, Policy and Public Affairs Officer

In all the hubbub of a very busy news week last week, one exciting announcement that may have slipped under people’s radars was the creation of a new Covid Winter Grant Scheme to help people struggling to afford food and other essentials. The scheme will see £170m given to councils in England to spend on supporting people worst affected by the crisis between the start of December and the end of March 2021. This decision to provide funding for local welfare assistance is testament to the efforts of food banks, campaigners and charities across the country, who have all been calling for this vital support.

Provision of local welfare assistance by local authorities, which can include emergency cash grants as well as longer-term support (such as debt and benefits advice), has long been recognised as a key part of the social security system. In our recent report Local Lifelines we highlighted the crucial role that this support played during the Covid-19 crisis, particularly in areas where the local authority had previously invested in their support scheme and were able to respond quickly and flexibly to support those in financial crisis during the lockdown. This provision of effective local welfare assistance can help prevent a financial emergency from escalating into a more sustained crisis.

The Trussell Trust, alongside key partners such as The Children’s Society, has been calling for a £250m per year investment into local welfare assistance in England. So this announcement of £170m funding for four months shows a significant commitment on the part of the government to ensure that councils have the cash to support people who don’t have enough money for essentials after being hit by an emergency. This is an excellent first step, but this vital local lifeline needs to be there whenever it’s needed, not just this winter. This is why, whilst we welcome this step, we’ll be calling for continued funding for local welfare assistance beyond March 2021.

Not only did the government announce £170m for local welfare support, but following the fantastic campaigning efforts of Marcus Rashford, the Food Foundation and others, there is also £220m funding to provide support to families through the school holidays. This is another clear example of the power that we all have to create change.

This new funding for locally delivered support may mean the difference for many families between staying afloat and slipping into destitution. Crucially, we would like to see this funding spent in line with the examples of best practice we saw in our research and highlighted by others such as the Local Government Association. This includes providing tailored and wrap-around support which connects people to other relevant services in their community, addressing underlying needs and enabling them to build their own resilience against future crises.

But right now, we know that food banks are busier than ever, with food banks forecast to give out six emergency food parcels a minute this winter. Whilst local lifelines are crucial, we also need to fix the holes in the national safety net to support people who have been hardest hit by this pandemic:

  • The £20 uplift to Universal Credit has been a lifeline pulling people from destitution; the government should not take this away when it is needed most. The uplift must be extended beyond next spring and extended to those on other welfare payments.
  • People are also struggling right now with huge levels of debt; three quarters of people arriving at food banks on Universal Credit are repaying advances to cover the five-week wait. All benefit deductions should be temporarily suspended to help those on the lowest incomes.

The Covid-19 crisis has heralded an upsurge in calls for justice for people hardest hit by this crisis. It’s great that the government have listened to our calls to provide support locally. But we must also push for long-term solutions and ensure our national social security system is strong enough to act as the lifeline so many of us need it to be.  Only then can we ensure when we are out of this crisis, we can create a Hunger Free Future where everyone has enough money to afford the essentials.

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The Trussell Trust responds to government’s winter package of support

8 Nov

Responding to the news of the government’s winter package  announced today after Marcus Rashford’s campaigning, Emma Revie, chief executive of the Trussell Trust said,

“Covid-19 has already led to tens of thousands of new people needing to use a food bank for the first time, so it’s encouraging to see the government build on steps already taken to help prevent more people being locked into poverty this winter. The extension in funding for local councils in England is particularly welcome. Our latest research shows local welfare support can be an effective way of preventing someone hit by an emergency from being plunged into a longer-term crisis.

“We know support from local authorities can make a real difference when someone is hit by the unexpected – but it must work in coordination with a national social security system strong enough to act as a lifeline to any of us struggling to afford the essentials. That’s why it’s crucial that alongside this package, the government commits to locking in the £20 weekly increase to Universal Credit, and makes sure that people currently excluded because their payments come through the old welfare system get this vital boost too.

“This year has shown the unexpected can hit us suddenly, with devastating consequences for people’s lives. But it’s also shown we can make huge changes to the way we live and look after each other. It’s shown that when we come together to push for change, united by our desire for justice and compassion, the government responds. It’s not right that anyone needs to use a food bank, at any time of year, but changes like this show that together, we can build a hunger free future.”

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