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Visits to West Midlands food banks jump 150% as Bishops call on Government to intervene

Visits to West Midlands food banks jump 150% as Bishops call on Government to intervene

🕔22.Apr 2015

The first question Jeremy Paxman asked David Cameron in their General Election television debate was whether the Prime Minister knew how many food banks there were in the country.

Mr Cameron did not know, and if he had known the answer he would surely have kept quiet.

According to the Trussell Trust almost one million people in Great Britain received three days’ emergency supplies from food banks last year – up from 346,992 the previous year.

The 163 per cent rise, described as “shocking” by the Trust, was mirrored in the West Midlands where 104,300 people visited food banks over the past year, a 150 per cent increase – 64,343 were adults and 39,867 children.

By comparison, in 2012-13 a total of 41,396 people visited West Midlands’ food banks.

The growth in food banks since the last General Election has been rapid and is now on a scale not witnessed since the soup kitchens of the 1930s sprang up to deal with the Great Depression.

In 2009-10 there were just 40,898 people recorded as visiting food banks across the country. By last year the figure had shot up to one million.

The reason most commonly given for parents driven to the desperation of seeking free food for their children is a delay in receiving benefit payments, or the loss of benefits following Government changes to the rules for claiming.

These figures are likely to be the tip of the iceberg as far as UK food poverty is concerned because they only cover food banks run by the Trussell Trust and don’t include those helped by other emergency food providers or people in need who are too ashamed to seek help.

Trussell Trust’s annual report, timed to coincide with the election, was launched alongside a letter co-signed by 40 Anglican Bishops and over 600 church leaders from all major denominations calling for urgent Government action to be taken on UK food poverty.

The letter, initiated by End Hunger Fast, will be delivered to the constituency offices of each of the three main party leaders by three church leaders who have been fasting for 40 days in solidarity with people facing hunger in the UK. This will mark the biggest ever faith leader intervention on UK food poverty in modern times.

Trussell Trust chair Chris Mould said:

That 900,000 people have received three days’ food from a food bank, close to triple the numbers helped last year, is shocking in 21st century Britain.

“In the last year we’ve seen things get worse, rather than better, for many people on low-incomes. It’s been extremely tough for a lot of people, with parents not eating properly in order to feed their children and more people than ever experiencing seemingly unfair and harsh benefits sanctions.

“Unless there is determined policy action to ensure that the benefits of national economic recovery reach people on low-incomes we won’t see life get better for the poorest anytime soon.

“A more thoughtful approach to the administration of the benefits regime and sanctions in particular, increasing the minimum wage, introducing the living wage and looking at other measures such as social tariffs for essentials like energy would help to address the problem of UK hunger.”

Whilst there has been a 163 percent increase in food bank use, there has only been a 45 percent increase in the number of new Trussell Trust food banks opening in the past year.

Increasingly, Trussell Trust food banks are partnering with other agencies to provide additional services such as welfare advice, budgeting help and debt support at the food bank and helping people to break out of crisis. They are also providing essentials like washing powder, nappies and hygiene products to families who are at breaking point.

Oxfam’s Head of UK Poverty Programme, Rachael Orr said:

The fact that the number of people forced to turn to food banks has doubled in the last year and the situation is worsening for people in poverty is deeply worrying.

Food banks and the thousands of people who support them are doing an impressive job in helping stop people from going hungry, but the truth is that in a country as rich as the UK there should not be food poverty at all. The Government needs to provide adequate support to the poorest in society and urgently tackle the low incomes and rising bills that are leaving people hungry.

A new survey released this week by parenting website Netmums and Trussell Trust conducted in March 2014 reveals that more working families are struggling to make ends meet:

  • One in five working parents have had to choose between paying an essential bill or putting food on the table in the last 12 months.
  • 78 per cent of parents in working families have cut spending over the last 12 months.
  • 56 per cent admit to having to buy cheaper, lower quality food.
  • 43 per cent said they are only ‘just about coping’ with balancing their family budgets and a quarter stated they have suffered stress as a result of not eating properly.
  • Only 1 in 40 had turned to a food bank for help, with more than 70 per cent saying that they would only do so as a last resort.

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