Food banks have handed out a record 1.6 million food packages in one year, with children receiving nearly a third of all parcels.
The Trussell Trust, the charity responsible for managing a network of food banks across the UK, reported that the use of food banks was rising 19 per cent year-on-year.
The charity blamed the hike in usage on rising poverty caused by cuts to benefits, delays around securing Universal Credit, and a minimum wage that does not reflect the cost of living.
Food Banks And The Welfare State
In a statement, chief executive Emma Revie said that the government must overhaul the social welfare system because food banks would not, and should not, be a tool to cover for bureaucratic failures.
“We do not want to be a part of the welfare state, we can’t be a part of the system. ” Revie said.
We do not want to be a part of the welfare state, we can’t be a part of the system.
Emma Revie, Chief Executive of the Trussell Trust
“No charity can replace the dignity of having financial security,” Revie added.
The use of food banks has risen by 73 per cent in the last five years. The charity recorded that a fifth of all referrals to a food bank are due to a delay in receiving benefits including Universal Credit.
Under the current system, a person may have to wait up to five weeks for their first Universal Credit payment, during which time they will not have access to other benefits.
A person can access an “advanced loan” during this time, to make sure they have enough money, but the Trussell Trust says the repayments can cause them to have financial insecurity in the future.
Amber Rudd, the work and pensions secretary, has recently said that delays in the Universal Credit system were “absolutely not” forcing people to turn to food banks. In February 2019, Rudd stated that problems with the initial rollout of Universal Credit could have increased food bank usage.
The Cost Of Living
Nearly a third of people who accessed a food bank had to do so because their income did not meet the cost of living.
“What we are seeing year-upon-year is more and more people struggling to eat because they simply cannot afford food. This is not right,” Revie explained.
Unless we take bold action to solve poverty we risk undermining what we stand for as a country.
Campbell Robb, Chief Executive of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation
Campbell Robb, the chief executive of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, added that “bold action” needed to be taken to prevent more people becoming impoverished – and to give those living in poverty a better and more supportive system.
“When the use of food banks reaches a record high we are beyond the language of warning signs and wake-up calls,” he said.
“Unless we take bold action to solve poverty we risk undermining what we stand for as a country.”