Leading foodbank network set to give out its highest ever number of parcels

Benefit delays and changes were the biggest reason people turned to foodbanks


The country's leading foodbank network is on course to distribute the highest number of food parcels in its history after a "staggering" half a million were handed out in recent months.

The Trussell Trust said that between April and September, its foodbanks distributed 519,342 three-day emergency supplies, around 13,000 more than the same period a year ago, with 188,584 going to children.

Benefit delays and changes were the biggest reason people turned to foodbanks, accounting for 44% of referrals to the Trust's 420 foodbanks.

The charity called for a direct telephone line between foodbanks and local job centres so that help can be speeded up, reducing stress of those in need.

The Trust said it was on course to distribute the highest number of food parcels in its 12-year history in the current year,

Low income was the second largest cause of a crisis, accounting for almost a quarter of all referrals, driven by low pay, insecure work or rising costs.

David McAuley, chief executive of the Trussell Trust, said: "As the number of emergency food parcels provided to people by foodbanks rises once again, it's clear that more can be done to get people back on their feet faster.

"Many foodbanks now host independent welfare and debt advisers but they cannot solve all the issues.

"To stop UK hunger we must make sure the welfare system works fairly and compassionately, stopping people getting to a point where they have no money to eat.

"It feels like we could be seeing a new era at the Department for Work and Pensions with a consultation on Work Capability Assessments and willingness to engage in dialogue with charities working on the front line.

"A telephone hotline could build on this and go a long way to improving foodbanks' ability to help get people out of a crisis faster."

The report said projects offering additional support to tackle the underlying causes of a referral had made a positive impact, such as in Coventry where referrals fell by almost 3,000 in the past year after the introduction of welfare advisers.

One woman referred to the Coventry foodbank was given advice about working tax credits and debt repayments, which increased her income, meaning she could afford food for herself and her children.

Debbie Abrahams, shadow secretary of state for work and pensions, said: "The Trussell Trust report showing that the UK is on course for a record number of people needing to use emergency food parcels is a damming indictment of the Tory Government's failure. Even more staggering in the run up to Christmas is almost 200,000 children will be relying on a food parcel to get a decent meal.

"It is clear that delays in benefits payments and changes to eligibility are a major cause behind this increase.

"While the Tories continue to look the other way, refusing to accept the evidence, I've announced that Labour would scrap their punitive sanctions regime."