Statistics from the Trussell Trust have confirmed the obvious; more people are resorting to food banks to feed themselves and their children.
The Trussell Trust, just one of the many organisations helping people who can’t afford to buy food, handed out nearly a million food parcels last year. This represents almost three times the amount handed out by them the year before. The Government denies any link to the welfare reforms. ‘There is no robust evidence that welfare reforms or benefit administration are linked to increased use of food banks,’ a spokesperson for the Department for Work and Pensions told the BBC.
It is clear that, of the people facing eviction and homelessness due to rent arrears, the majority are in that position due to the welfare reforms. That much is clear after spending a day at a busy possession court. It is difficult to contemplate why people accessing food banks would not be those same people. The Trussell Trust food banks confirm that benefit sanctions, when benefits are stopped, are a major reason people go to food banks.
The situation is only set to get worse with more people getting in debt to try to feed their families and adults going without food to provide for their children. Many are simply too ashamed to go to a food bank and ask for help.
I met this week with a local food bank who sadly confirmed that whilst they should only provide food to an individual or family up to twice in a six month period, they are seeing people coming back up to five and six times in that period. It is a sad fact of the current system that vouchers for food banks are being handed out in schools to hungry children.
The housing team, together with our pro-bono welfare team, is working with local food banks to ensure that people in need of help are getting it. The staff at Stephensons are collecting together food to donate to the food banks. The stories of families unable to put food on the table are haunting. The food banks are helping those that have been made homeless and those that are potentially facing homeless due to possession proceedings. In either situation our specialist housing team can assist.
By Joanne Ellis, Partner and head of housing law team