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Foodbank demand soars across the UK

Call for urgent cut to six-week Universal Credit wait as foodbank demand soars across the UK.

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Between 1 April and 30 September 2017, The Trussell Trust’s foodbank network distributed 586,907 three-day emergency food supplies to people in crisis compared to 519,342 during the same period last year, 208,956 of these went to children. This is a measure of volume rather than unique users, and on average people needed around two foodbank referrals in the last year. The figure, distributed before full Universal Credit roll-out accelerated in October 2017, means the foodbank network is already on course to distribute a new record number of food parcels in 2017–18.

The charity is concerned the situation will worsen in the months leading to Christmas when demand for food traditionally spikes, and when the number of foodbanks in areas of full Universal Credit service will triple. New analysis of Trussell Trust foodbanks in areas of full Universal Credit roll-out shows that foodbanks in areas of full roll-out for six months or more have seen a 30% average increase six months after roll-out compared to a year before. Comparative analysis of foodbanks not in full Universal Credit roll-out areas showed an average increase of 12%.

Trussell Trust data reveals that issues with a benefit payment remain the biggest cause of referral to a foodbank across the UK, accounting for 43 percent of all referrals (25% benefit delay; 18% benefit change). New analysis of foodbank data also shows that:

Of people referred due to a benefit delay, 45% of referrals made due to a wait for a first payment were related to Universal Credit and 36% of referrals made because a new claim had not yet been awarded were related to Universal Credit.

Of people referred due to a benefit change, 38% of referrals made due to a change to a different benefit were related to Universal Credit.

Low income, which refers to anyone in work or on benefits struggling to get by on their income, accounts for 27 percent of referrals – suggesting certain pay and benefit levels are not protecting people from falling into crisis.

Foodbanks are responding to the impact of Universal Credit in a variety of ways but many are reporting extra pressure on food donation stocks, and several have highlighted concerns about volunteers’ time and emotional welfare. Foodbank managers across the UK identify three main obstacles to meeting future need: longer term issues requiring higher than average number of foodbank referrals; overwhelming numbers of people needing help; and food donations not meeting need.

Mark Ward, Interim Chief Executive at The Trussell Trust, said:

“We’re seeing soaring demand at foodbanks across the UK. Our network is working hard to stop people going hungry but the simple truth is that even with the enormous generosity of our donors and volunteers, we’re concerned foodbanks could struggle to meet demand this winter if critical changes to benefit delivery aren’t made now. People cannot be left for weeks without any income, and when that income does come, it must keep pace with living costs – foodbanks cannot be relied upon to pick up the pieces.

“Without urgent action from policy-makers and even more generous practical support from the public, we don’t know how foodbanks are going to stop families and children going hungry this Christmas.”