Spotlight on the vital contribution of volunteers in the Foodbank Network

8 Oct

By Miranda Beebe, Head of Volunteer Management 

Food banks are truly remarkable at connecting people with a passion to serve others – to come together and challenge injustice across the length and breadth of the UK. Every day in the network, we know thousands of volunteers turn up to stand alongside people experiencing crisis and show them solidarity and friendship.  

Today, we want to put the spotlight on Worcester Foodbank, who we noticed had logged 5,500 hours amongst 87 volunteers since February, when they first started using the volunteer management system, Assemble. In reality, the number is far higher as the 5,500 doesn’t account for additional hours for collections, deliveries and staying late after shifts. 

 

The impact of the pandemic

Throughout the pandemic, the food bank has been very busy, particularly in the winter with large volumes of everything – they had to get two additional storage sites in order to manage all the donations coming in. On top of the logistical hurdles, they were operating with just a third of their normal volunteer numbers because of social distancing measures, which also meant they couldn’t take on many new volunteers despite over 100 signing up to help. When reflecting on sheer volume of activity – the warehouses, the increase of deliveries, the running of the food bank – Ruth Allsopp, the Operations Coordinator, spoke about the consistency of the time and support they were able to provide to people in crisis with the help of their volunteers. 

Ruth also talked about the frustrations with the pandemic around limiting the amount time they had to meet and chat with people who visited the food bank, either to donate food or receive support. They’re all looking forward to the more social aspects of food bank volunteering.  

“We’ll all be happy for a quieter time when we can spend more time with clients again.”

Ruth 

 

 

Going above and beyond 

The Team is always coming up with new ways to enhance our service, thinking of ways to make the best use of our donations.”

One example was thinking about Mother’s Day and Father’s Day this year. Having been inspired by seeing toiletry packs and certain non-food items being donated over the Christmas period, volunteers asked if they could make little treat bags to either give to people visiting the food bank as a gift from the food bank or as something people visiting the food bank could give to their own mother or father. The volunteers made notecards, explaining that this was a little extra for them to do with as they wanted and gave out the treat bags weeks in advance of the actual day in order to reach as many people as possible.  

The sense of unity and empathy amongst the volunteers at Worcester Foodbank is strong, which the food bank fosters, led by Ruth. There are monthly newsletters for volunteers, emails when there are any policy or operational changes, and 20-minute briefings before each session, three times a week. The briefings are safe spaces for volunteers to raise any issues or questions, as well as sharing stories from people who visited the food bank. Building this sense of community amongst teams means they quickly pick up things from each other, and any changes or learnings are easily passed on.  

Worcester Foodbank’s engaging social media accounts are also the result of a dedicated volunteer, who’s a PR and marketing professional by day. Ruth drops the volunteer an email each week on headline items, which are then translated into fresh content. The volunteer has also been key in building the relationship between the food bank and local media. 

“Everyone goes above and beyond in what they’re doing.”

To Worcester Foodbank and anyone else empowered by their volunteers, we’re so proud to be supporting you to become places of transformation.  

 

For more information on volunteering, click here. 

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Party conference and the Universal Credit cut: The Chancellor would do well to listen to his own party members ​

7 Oct

By Sumi Rabindrakumar, Head of Policy & Research

Party conferences are usually full of slogans; at the Trussell Trust, we try to push political parties to put some meaning behind them. This year, at Labour and Conservative party conferences, we discussed how we can end the need for food banks, drawing on frontline experience from experts in our network, lessons from the pandemic, and insight across levels of government. After another record number of emergency food parcels provided across the UK (a shocking 2.5 million in our network), we urgently need action.  

Hopeful signs and policy solutions were offered across the political parties 

Reflecting on the events we held and attended, there are reasons to hope that – across the political spectrum – people are starting to listen and come together to press for the changes needed so people no longer have to turn to charity to put food on the table.  

We heard powerful testimony from Jenni, who had received support from a food bank in our network, who urged MPs to understand the difficulties of managing on such a low budget. And we heard from Jack Monroe of the grind of acute poverty, its long-term effects and the vital importance of recognising the reality of people’s living situations. 

 

“I can’t impress upon you enough the value of being seen and heard as a human being when you are practically invisible.”

Jack Monroe

 

Party members, councillors and MPs across the political parties voiced deep concern about the reality of not being able to afford the essentials like food, heating, and housing, and recognised that mass distribution of charitable food is no long-term solution. 

 

“We must tackle this horrendous inequality”

Conservative councillor

 

Politicians and policy experts discussed practical steps forward. Some focused on a strong social security system, including investing in Universal Credit (“an unfinished project”, argued one Conservative MP), increasing Local Housing Allowance covering private rent, long-term funding for local welfare, ensuring affordable and fair collection of debts to local and central government (from council tax to tax credit overpayments) and improving access to support for people with no recourse to public funds.  

Others focused on tackling the longer-term drivers of need for food banks, including building social housing, and addressing precarious work. There was widespread recognition of the importance of both local solutions driven by the knowledge of communities, as well as strong, national systems of support to ensure people have enough in their pockets to afford the essentials.  

Progress is undermined by this week’s decision to abandon people on the lowest incomes 

Yet at the same time, 6 million households receiving Universal Credit or Working Tax Credit are being dealt a crushing blow, as they begin to have £20 removed from their weekly budget. That’s £20 less a week on food, heating, clothes, school uniforms, and toiletries. £20 less a week as we head into a spiralling cost of living crisis.  

The bubble of hope from the engagement we saw from party members, backbenchers and frontbenchers across the political parties was swiftly burst by statements from the Chancellor and the Prime Minister, apparently forgetting the vital role of social security during the pandemic. 

I was struck by an event on social housing this Tuesday. The common theme across the speakers was how long they had been talking about solutions to deliver more social housing, and affordable social rent. This is the reality faced by households on the lowest incomes: social security that has steadily been cut, without any alternative solution to afford the essentials. Food banks have picked up the pieces, but this isn’t right.  

Why should people on the lowest incomes pay for the political failure to deal with problems like unaffordable housing and low wages? How long should people be forced to survive on social security that has been pared to the bone, while they wait for new promises of change to take effect? And what does the Chancellor’s rejection of social security investment say for people who need extra support to live a dignified life – because they are taking on unpaid care for the previous or next generation; because they lose their job; because they fall ill; because they have a long-term health condition which means they may never be in paid work? 

Still time to act 

The Chancellor said last week that “everyone should be able to afford the essentials”. The Prime Minister said yesterday that he would “promote opportunity with every tool we have”. If these slogans are to have any meaning, the Chancellor must change course in his upcoming Spending Review and make the increase to Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit permanent. We cannot hope to unleash people’s potential if we are pushing them into deep poverty at the same time. 

The government saw the living standards emergency that the Covid-19 pandemic would unleash and took action. As Matt Stallard, chair of trustees for Manchester Central Foodbank asked on our panel, why isn’t the continued hunger and destitution in our communities also an emergency? Surely it is, and surely we must act. A first step would be to keep the £20 a week lifeline. 

If you agree that the government should reverse its decision to cut Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit, text RISHI followed by your message, to 88080 (no charge). We’ll bring your messages to Westminster, at the Chancellor’s doorstep, this month. 

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“We are one step away from food banks and working consistently to keep our heads above the rising tide.”

28 Sep

By Alex, who will be hit by the £20 cut to Universal Credit if the Government goes ahead with their plans 

The numbers around the impact of the planned cut to Universal Credit are, by now, more familiar; 1.2 million people could be forced to skip meals, 1.3 million people could struggle to heat their homes this winter and 900,000 people tell us they’re very likely not to have enough money to travel to work or make essential trips like medical appointments. But behind these stats are the people who live in our communities, who will feel the devastating impact of the cut. 

Alex and his wife applied for Universal Credit when his job came to a complete standstill during the pandemic and his wife’s mental health deteriorated. Since then, they have been struggling to stay afloat and have skipped meals to be able to feed their son. 

“I am a freelance photographer who struggles immensely with depression brought on by previously undiagnosed ADHD. I have worked all of my life since leaving school at 16. I left school and went straight into hospitality, where I quickly progressed through the ranks and became a sous chef and later became an executive chef. I’m not afraid to work by any means, working less than a minimum of 60 hours a week makes me feel lazy. I became a photographer in order to document the lives of people in the hospitality industry. I have worked alongside Michelin star chefs and their restaurants and also documented a few celebrity weddings.

The impact of the pandemic on our work

Life was pretty stable and enjoyable before the pandemic. My wife and I were pretty well grounded in our careers, and we welcomed our first child into the world. But during the pandemic my work also came to a complete standstill. This in turn forced me to look after our son full time as he was still too young for nursery.

Last year my wife was also diagnosed with bipolar 2 disorder. Her health has deteriorated immensely due to working throughout the pandemic. She has had to increase her medication dosage in order to find a balance between work and motherhood, though the medication has adverse effects on her wellbeing and ability to work. We had both made every effort to seek outside help in order to create a safer working environment for her. Try as we may, every effort has been in vain as her employer did not appreciate or accept her mental health issues. She has since had to leave that environment due to suffering with suicidal thoughts.

Since my son has turned one and the nurseries have opened up again, we have been able to access childcare in order for me to contribute to our monthly outgoings and ease the emotional financial pressure felt by my wife.

But despite my efforts, the work hasn’t been as frequent, and we are now faced with childcare costs that are equal to a second mortgage. We have considered the current government’s suggestions to retrain and find “better jobs” but this would likely mean we would both be likely to have to work traditional working hours, thus increasing our need for extra childcare, increasing our monthly outgoings, and essentially changing nothing about our current financial hardship.

Our main focus is to provide a safe environment for our son, who is the kindest, happiest little boy you could ever wish to meet. We work tirelessly to create a balance between being available to him as parents and being financially safe.

 

Applying for Universal Credit

We both made the decision to apply for Universal Credit in order to help with our mortgage and childcare costs. The two of us have sacrificed meals in order to give whatever fruit and veg left in the fridge to our son.

We don’t want to rely on the government for our income. We want to be able to work for our money and forge our way through the world. We want to teach our son that hard work, self-respect, and passion will bring satisfaction and happiness. We are one step away from food banks and working consistently to keep our heads above the rising tide. This whole situation is worlds away from where we’d ever wish to be. The sad thing is, we know it’s not just us in this position.”

We’re grateful to Alex for sharing his story and for highlighting why it’s so important to Keep the Lifeline.  

 

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The public wants us to keep the Universal Credit lifeline: the Prime Minister and the Chancellor should listen

8 Sep

By Sumi Rabindrakumar, Head of Policy and Research

Over a million people fear they will be forced to skip meals and switch off their heating this winter if the UK government goes ahead with its plan to cut Universal Credit payments by £20 a week next month. 

That’s one of the many alarming figures coming from the Trussell Trust’s new findings based on YouGov polling. These findings are the latest in escalating concerns from all quarters – MPs across the political parties, national governments across the UK, doctors, frontline workers, and – of course – Universal Credit claimants. Wave after wave of letters, research, and lived experience all point to the same conclusion: the cut to Universal Credit will be a devastating blow for the millions of households struggling to make ends meet. 

Today’s new data lays bare the full impact of the impending cut. Faced with a cut of £20 a week, 1.2 million people (20%) claiming Universal Credit say they will very likely need to skip meals and 1.3 million (21%) say they will very likely be unable to afford to heat their homes this winter. Nearly a million (900,000, 15%) say they are very likely to need to use a food bank as a result of the cut. 

These worries are being felt by people across the UK, in all nations, and all regions. If the UK government is serious about its intention that ‘as far as possible everyone everywhere feels the benefits’ of recovery, No. 10 and No. 11 Downing Street should be worried too. 

It is worrying that constituents in regions targeted for the government’s ‘levelling up’ agenda are especially likely to fear they will struggle to meet their basic needs. In the North East of England, for example, people are nearly twice as likely to fear they won’t be able to heat their homes this winter compared with the average UC claimant in the UK (30% vs. 21%). They are a third more likely than average to fear they will need to use a food bank (20% vs. 15%) and skip meals (28% vs 20%) if the cut goes ahead. 

It is worrying that a mere one in five people from today’s polling believe our social security system provides enough support to people with physical or mental health conditions, days after the government launches its health and disability green paper exploring “how the welfare system can better meet the needs of disabled people and people with health conditions”. 

It is worrying that – as the government attempts to set out a jobs-led recovery – the cut will mostly affect working people, and today’s poll shows nearly a million (900,000, 15%) people say they are very likely to not have enough money to travel to work or essential appointments by public transport if the cut goes ahead. 

As the record numbers of emergency food parcels provided by food banks in the Trussell Trust network and beyond show, families across the UK are already caught in impossible situations. Today’s polling shows that over three-quarters (77%) of current Universal Credit claimants are struggling to keep up with bills and credit commitments. Well over a million have cut back on food for at least a day (1.9 million, 32%) and gone without basic toiletries (1.4 million, 23%) because they couldn’t afford them in the last 30 days. Imposing the biggest overnight cut to the basic rate of social security since World War II risks pulling families with precarious finances further under. 

This isn’t right – and it doesn’t have to be like this. We do not need to inflict immediate hardship on people already struggling to stay afloat. We do not need to push more families through the doors of food banks. If we are to ‘build back better’, we all need the security and stability of a strong lifeline – because, as the pandemic has shown, life is full of things for which we cannot plan.  

The UK public knows this – today’s findings show that, even including the undecided, a majority supports making the increase permanent. People are twice as likely to support keeping the increase than oppose it. It is clear: our social security system must at the very least provide people on low incomes with enough money to cover the essentials in life – like food and heating. The UK government must keep the lifeline this October. 

We are four weeks away from Universal Credit being cut – we need your help now. Email your MP to support the #KeepTheLifeline campaign, and ask them to tell the Prime Minister and the Chancellor to keep the £20 increase to Universal Credit and extend it to people receiving ‘legacy’ benefits.

 

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Why writing to your MP can help us keep the lifeline  

31 Aug

By Rory Weal, Policy and Public Affairs Manager

September is here, and as the kids go back to school and MPs return from their summer recess, the government has a big decision hurtling down the tracks: will they stick to their guns and cut Universal Credit by £20 a week this October, or keep this vital lifeline and keep people afloat? 

Food banks across the Trussell Trust network know just how vital the extra £20 on Universal Credit has been. It could be the difference between people being able to get by or cut back on vital essentials, like food, clothing and heating. Removing it risks plunging tens of thousands into destitution. That’s why the Trussell Trust is supporting the Keep the Lifeline campaign, and asking you to write to your MP. 

But we also know that for some people it isn’t clear what exactly the point of writing to their MP is. It can feel daunting or confusing for some, while for others they might not believe it will make a difference. But it can make a real positive impact on people’s lives. Here’s how:

Why should I be writing to my MP to ask them to keep the lifeline?

Put simply, the more MPs who speak out against the cut will be the difference between whether or not the government U-turns or pushes ahead. And that decision will have an enormous impact on millions of households. 

While there won’t be a vote in Parliament – the cut is a spending decision already made by the Treasury – if enough MPs oppose the cut, the government will rethink its plans. 

Conservative MPs are especially important because the government is accountable to its own MPs, and reliant on their votes to stay in office and pass legislation. As a result these MPs have significant power to influence government policy. Of course, the additional pressure from the opposition parties will also help to secure this outcome, and build pressure, attention and support behind keeping the lifeline.

But I am just one person, what difference can I make?

It’s easy to feel like a small action you take might not be felt, but your support for a campaign and contacting your MP has the power to make a difference.

For starters, you have power as a constituent. Your MP is elected by constituents and is in post to represent them. No matter which party they are from, MPs are there to hold the government to account and you, in turn, can hold your MP to account. It is a powerful position to be in.

Not only do you have the right to call, email and visit your MP, they often want to hear from you.

Lots of small actions add up to bigger ones and that means lots of us doing the same thing, taking the same action, collectively speaking as one, can create change. We have power in our partnership, so don’t underestimate what your one, individual action has the potential to add up to.

Ok, I’m feeling fired up! What can I do next?

If you haven’t already, email your MP and help us stop the cut to Universal Credit. There are lots of opportunities in Parliament for MPs to raise the issue in the next couple of weeks, so this is a great time to email them and secure their support.

If you’ve done that already, think about who you know who might support the campaign and tell them about it. Why not set yourself a challenge to tell 5 or 10 friends? Ask them to email their MPs.

Share this blog on your social media channels. If you have been wondering why you should write to your MP, chances are your network has wondered too!

Next week we will be releasing some new findings on the impact that the cut will have on people, including on their ability to afford food and other essentials. Keep an eye out and be sure to spread the word and help us build the pressure, and ensure the government makes the right decision to keep the lifeline. Time is ticking.

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Millions of people turn to food banks in latest evidence of food insecurity

29 Jul

By Emily Spoor, Research Officer

New figures out today show that almost one in three people whose only income was through social security had been to a food bank in the previous year – these figures more than highlight that now is not the time to cut £20 a week from their income.  

This new evidence, collected between November 2020 and January 2021, showed that one in 12 (7%) people aged 16 and over in England, Wales and Northern Ireland had used a food bank in the previous year – representing almost three and a half million people.  

This new data from the Food and You survey shows that far too many people are being let down by the benefit system. Our social security system should protect people from being pulled into poverty and be strong enough to pull people out – but in reality the benefit system forces too many to go without essentials such as food. 

The last year has seen unprecedented levels of need for food banks 

2020/21 has been an extraordinary year, and the pandemic has directly contributed to an increased need for support from food banks. Food banks in the Trussell Trust network distributed 33% more food parcels in 2020/21 compared to 2019/20, reaching a record 2.5 million parcels. 

However, we know that this is just the tip of the iceberg. When asked about whether they had been supported by a food bank or other emergency food provider in the last 12 months 7% of people surveyed by Food and You had received support from an emergency food provider in the previous year (The survey ran from 20th November 2020 to 21st January 2021). While they are different methodologies to put this into context the State of Hunger (2021) estimated that 2.5% of households in the UK had used a food bank in 2019/20.  

Our social security system is failing to protect people from being pulled into poverty 

Our research shows that extremely low income, including from the benefit system, is a key driver of food bank use. This new data also suggests that: people in the lowest income brackets are twice as likely to have received emergency food support (17% vs. 7% overall). 

Shockingly, more than half (57%) of people who solely receive income from social security are food insecure, meaning they can’t reliably afford to eat enough food compared to 16% of all households. 

The social security system is failing to provide too many people with the income they need to afford food – and the £20 cut to Universal Credit expected in the autumn will only make this worse. 

People in poor health are more at risk of needing support 

People referred to food banks in the Trussell Trust network are three times more likely to be disabled than the UK average. Our research has consistently shown that people with health conditions are more likely to need support from a food bank.  

The new figures from Food and You reinforces this, finding that people who reported that they had a longterm health condition were more than twice as likely to be food insecure as people who did not (25% vs 11%) and three times more likely to need support from a food bank (13% vs 4%).  

As well as the problems with the benefit system that they experience, disabled people often face extra costs, such as higher housing, utilities, or transport costs, which can put them at increased risk of needing to use a food bank.  

Households with any children and larger families more likely to need support 

The last year has seen consistent challenges to UK government on levels of child poverty and the figures released today again highlight this issue. One in four (24%) people living with children were food insecure, compared to 12% in households without children. People living with children were almost twice as likely to report needing support from a food bank than households without children (11% vs 6%).  

Larger households were also more at risk of being food insecure. A quarter (24%) of households with five or more people were food insecure. This is more than twice the rate of households of two people (11%). These households were also more likely to report needing support from a food bank (11% vs 6% of households of two people).  

This is consistent with what we find in food banks in the Trussell Trust network. Parcels provided to children made up 39% of the support provided by food banks in 2020/21 were children, even though children make up only 20% of the UK population. Further, among families with children referred to a food bank in early 2020, nearly two in five (39%) had three or more children. This is nearly three times the rate in the general population, where just 14% of families with children have three or more children. 

The UK Government needs to develop a plan to end the need for food banks – this should start with not going ahead with the planned cut to Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit this autumn 

To end the need for food banks we need to ensure that 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. This would protect the incomes of those already struggling, help disabled people (who are more likely to claim legacy benefits) to meet increase the costs they face, and provide a vital lifeline for the 5 million families who are claiming Universal Credit. 

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The State of Hunger: Our housing crisis is driving people to food banks

22 Jul

By Tom Weeks, Research Manager at the Trussell Trust

Today, as part of the State of Hunger blog series, we are exploring how issues with housing can drive people to food banks.  

With over 95,000 households living in temporary accommodation at the end of March 2021, today’s English homelessness statistics highlight the scale of the housing emergency we are facing. Despite the eviction ban (in place until the end of May 2021), in the first three months of 2021 alone over 36,500 households presented to their local council and were found to be homeless.  

People referred to food banks are at the forefront of this emergency and are far more likely to be homeless than the national average. In early 2020, one in five (20%) people referred to food banks were homeless, that is living in temporary or emergency accommodation, staying at family/friends, or sleeping rough. In the 12 months before receiving support from a food bank, three in ten people (29%) had experienced homelessness and one in eight (12%) had experienced eviction.  

Renting is also far more common amongst people referred to food banks than average. In early 2020, three-quarters (74%) of people who needed to use a food bank were renters, with a majority of them social renters. In 2019 just over one in three (37%) working age adults lived in rented accommodation.   

Issues with the benefits that renters receive for their housing costs, and deductions to these benefits because of their housing circumstances can drive them into destitution and put them at risk of needing support from a food bank.  

Homelessness can drive levels of need for food banks 

Homelessness is often caused by a fundamental lack of income. In early 2021 the main reason that one in five (20%) private renters were found to be homeless was because of rent arrears. Renters often face a toxic combination of extremely high housing costs and insecure tenancies. Food banks across the country have seen the consequences of this lack of income with year on year increases in need and a consistently large number of homeless people referred for support.  

We know that challenging life experiences such as homelessness can put people at greater risk of destitution and needing support from food banks. Homelessness can remove the support networks that people rely on or increase their living costs (for example if someone now needs to take public transport to work). Some people may also lose their job as they are unable to travel to it from their new accommodation. In the last decade, the number of households in England housed in different local authorities has increased by 315%, versus a 98% overall for the number of households in temporary accommodation. In the last decade, the number of households in England housed out of the area that they were living in has increased by 315%, versus a 98% overall for the number of households in temporary accommodation. 

Homelessness can also increase the risk of adverse health. Living in unsuitable, poor quality or overcrowded accommodation can damage peoples physical and mental health and moving area can disrupt access to established medical support. The majority (66%) of homeless people referred to food banks in early 2020 were disabled.   

Renters are being put at risk of needing support from food banks because of issues with their benefits 

For renters referred to food banks, housing costs can push them into destitution. In early 2020, over one in four (28%) households referred to food banks had housing costs at similar levels to their total household income in the last month, suggesting that they had little (if any) money left to buy other essentials. 

This is often due to issues of the adequacy of benefits. In early 2020, over one in four (28%) private rented households referred to food banks had a shortfall between their housing benefit and their housing costs. This meant they had to use the benefits meant for household essentials such as food to cover their rent. The very low levels of these core benefits means any use of them to cover rent puts people at risk of destitution.  

Many social renters face deductions from their benefits because of the removal of the spare room subsidy (commonly known as the ‘bedroom tax’). We know that this is a significant issue for people referred to food banks, reducing the amount of income overall that they have to afford essentials. State of Hunger analysis shows that in a typical local authority, 100 more households subject to the ‘bedroom tax’ increases the number of food parcels distributed by 46.  

In April 2020 the UK government made a welcome change in response to the pandemic, increasing the Local Housing Allowance rate (housing support for private renters). This is now frozen, exposing private renters to shortfalls as the real value of these benefits is eroded because of rent increases in the coming months and years.  

The UK Government needs to develop a plan to end the need for food banks – this should recognise the role that housing, and the benefit system plays in driving levels of need.  

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 ensure that the benefits that people receive to cover their housing costs are enough, so no one is forced to choose between feeding themselves and their family and paying their rent.   

Making the £20 weekly increase to Universal Credit permanent and extending it to legacy benefits such as Employment and Support Allowance, would also give people the breathing space needed within their own budgets. 

The UK Government should develop a plan in partnership with people with lived experience of poverty, including people who have experienced homelessness. This would help identify the changes needed to the social security and housing system, to ensure everyone has a safe and secure place to call home and a sufficient level of income to afford the essentials. 

 

 

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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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