Food bank charity report busiest ever period with 820,000 emergency parcels given out

A food bank charity says it has recorded its busiest ever six month period, with more than a third of its emergency parcels going to children.

The Trussell Trust, which runs a network of food banks across the UK, said more people than ever before are being forced to go to food banks, with more than 820,000 emergency food parcels given out in the past six months.

It said data shows that April to September 2019 was the busiest half-year period for food banks in the Trussell Trust’s network since the charity opened.

During those six months, 823,145 three-day emergency food parcels were given to people in crisis in the UK, with more than a third of these (301,653) going to children.

The charity said this is a 23% increase on the same period in 2018 – the sharpest rate of increase the charity has seen for the past five years.

It said the main reasons for people needing emergency food are low benefit income (36%), and delays (18%) or changes (16%) to benefits being paid.

One of the key issues people at food banks face is the five week wait for a first Universal Credit payment, the charity said.

It added that although Universal Credit is not the only benefit payment people at food banks experience problems with, the majority (65%) of food bank referrals made in April – Sept 2019 due to a delay in benefits being paid in the UK were linked to Universal Credit.

Trussell Trust chief executive Emma Revie said: “Our benefits system is supposed to protect us all from being swept into poverty, but currently thousands of women, men and children are not receiving sufficient protection from destitution.

“This is not right. But we know this situation can be fixed – our benefits system could be the key to unlocking people from poverty.

“This General Election, all political parties must pledge to protect people from hunger by ensuring everyone has enough money for the basics.

“We want our next government to start working towards a future where no one needs a food bank by ending the five week wait for Universal Credit; ensuring benefit payments cover the cost of living; and investing in local emergency support for people in crisis.

“Together, these three changes will put money back into the pockets of people who most need our support. It’s in our power as a country to end the need for food banks. This can change.”

There are more than 1,200 food bank centres in the Trussell Trust’s network across the UK, and the charity said that research from the Independent Food Aid Network shows there are at least 817 independent food banks, so the Trussell Trust network accounts for roughly two-thirds of all food banks.

A DWP spokesman said: “We spend over £95 billion a year on welfare, and have simplified the benefits system through Universal Credit.

“Free school meals are provided for 1.3 million disadvantaged children, and over £26 million has also been invested in a breakfast club programme.”

Margaret Greenwood, Labour’s shadow work and pensions secretary, said: “It should be a source of shame for this Government that food bank use has risen so sharply yet again.

“These figures show clearly how harsh, punitive Conservative policies like the five-week wait in Universal Credit are pushing people to the point of destitution.”

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