Big increase in people using food banks because of virus crisis – report

The number of people using food banks for the first time has increased because of the virus crisis, new research reveals.

The Trussell Trust said its study suggested that families with children are being hit the hardest during the pandemic.

An analysis carried out by Heriot-Watt University with support from the National Institute of Economic and Social Research, estimated there is likely to be a 61% rise in need at the Trust’s network of more than 1,000 food banks this winter.

The charity warned that with mass unemployment being predicted there will be further rises in poverty with 670,000 additional people classed as destitute by the end of 2020, meaning they cannot afford essentials like housing, energy and food.

This is on top of year-on-year rises in the number of people unable to afford food and forced into using food banks across the UK, said the Trust.

Well before Covid-19 hit the UK, food banks in the Trussell Trust network had been seeing year-on-year increases in levels of need, with 1.9 million emergency food parcels given out in 2019/20.

As the pandemic struck, the Trust said it saw an immediate and sustained surge in need across its food banks.

In April there was an 89% increase in the number of emergency food parcels given out compared with the same month in 2019, including a 107% increase in the number of parcels given to children.

The latest data shows that almost 100,000 households received support from a food bank in the Trussell Trust network for the very first time between April and June.

The report added that rises to some benefit levels and the job retention scheme prevented many more people from facing destitution, but warned that with these schemes set to end, the Government must continue to take action.

Emma Revie, chief executive of the Trussell Trust, said: “Communities throughout the country have shown enormous resilience in helping more people than ever before, but food banks and other community charities cannot continue to pick up the pieces. None of us should need a charity’s help to put food on the table.

“Our research finds that Covid-19 has led to tens of thousands of new people needing to use a food bank for the first time. This is not right.

“If we don’t take action now, there will be further catastrophic rises in poverty in the future.

“The pandemic has exposed the power of what happens when we stand together in the face of adversity.

“With the furlough scheme set to wind down, we must act now to put in place protection for each other. The Budget and Comprehensive Spending Review present a pivotal opportunity to put things right.

“We must take it to help us weather the storm left in the wake of Covid-19.”

Action for Children is warning of similar issues, with fears that thousands of families are set to plunge into financial crisis this winter.

According to a report released on Monday, two thirds (66%) of the charity’s on-the-ground workers, who have supported people through the pandemic, fear families will become worse off over the next six months.

It says that throughout the crisis, almost one in 10 (9%) of its staff have taken food from their own cupboards to help support vulnerable people, with others reporting needing to provide extra emotional support as well.

Since lockdown began, Action for Children has run an emergency appeal which has helped 10,000 children across the country. However, 71% of families who accessed the funds did not have financial issues before the pandemic.

A Government spokesman said: “We have provided £9.3 billion extra welfare support to help those most in need, including increasing Universal Credit by up to £20 a week, as well as introducing income protection schemes, mortgage holidays and additional support for renters. Meanwhile, since mid-March we’ve supported 3.9 million claims to Universal Credit and made 1.3 million advance payments to people who could not wait.

“We have already taken steps to help ease the burden of Universal Credit debt repayments including reducing the maximum deduction from 40% to 30% off a claimant’s standard allowance. From October 2021 we will reduce this further to 25%, and we will double the time available to repay an advance to 24 months.”

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