Biggest-ever foodbanks report reveals hunger horror facing Britain’s hardest-up households

Researchers spent 18 months investigating why our poorest families are flocking for help

Four out of five foodbank users go hungry multiple times a year with some skipping meals for days at a time, according to the biggest ever study of UK foodbanks.

A bombshell report drawn up over 18 months today lays bare the horror of hunger gripping some of the country’s poorest families.

Soaring housing costs, rocketing energy bills and rising grocery prices pile pressure on budgets of the hardest-up households, the Oxford University probe found.

More than half of families relying on emergency handouts included a disabled person, 75% experienced ill health in their household, while mental health problems affected people in a third of families. It found that people with a disability or chronic illness who were in receipt of benefits were disproportionately likely to be referred to food banks, as were lone parents and poorer families with three or more children.

“These are the same groups that have been – and continue to be – hit hardest by welfare reform, such as loss of disability entitlements, increased conditionality and sanctions, the benefit cap, and reductions in tax credits.

(Photo: Getty Images Europe)

One in three households struggled to meet minimum monthly repayments on outstanding loans, and nearly one in five mired in debt owe money to payday lenders.

The 70-page report was based on data gathered from more than 400 households using 18 foodbanks around the country.

The devastating results outline the difficulties facing poverty-stricken households who seek help from generous volunteers.

Half had gone without heating for more than four days in the past 12 months, 50% could not afford toiletries, and a fifth had slept rough in the last year.

Nearly two in five people were waiting for a benefit payment, with most waiting up to six weeks.

A fifth were waiting seven weeks or more.

A third of delays were for Employment Support Allowance payments.

Author Dr Rachel Loopstra, of Oxford University’s sociology department, said: “The stories emerging from foodbanks across the country have surprised and shocked many people but until now, we have not been able to put them in a numerical context.

“Our survey data show how people using foodbanks are unable to ensure they always have enough food to eat because their incomes are too low and too insecure.

“We observed how commonly income or expenditure shocks, whether arising from a delay in receiving a benefit payment, from a benefit sanction, or from rising energy costs, tipped households into foodbank use.

“But these shocks, and resulting foodbank usage, occur among people who live with extremely low incomes and chronic food insecurity, where meeting basic needs is an ongoing struggle.

“The severity and chronicity of food insecurity and other forms of destitution we observed amongst people using foodbanks are serious public health concerns.”

The report was commissioned by Britain’s biggest foodbank network, the Trussell Trust, which runs 428 foodbanks.

Last year the charity’s volunteers provided 1.2 million emergency food parcels.

Chief Executive David McAuley said: “This pioneering research confirms to us what those volunteers have been telling us.

“DWP secretary, David Gauke, remarked last week when asked about the rise in food bank use. Gauke was announcing that the benefit freeze would remain in place despite rising food prices. With little sense of irony, he did it over a lobby lunch.

The Trussell Trust Food Bank
The Trussell Trust is Britain’s biggest foodbank operator (Photo: Getty)

“Every day they are meeting people trying to cope with low, insecure incomes and rising prices that mean even the smallest unexpected expense can leave them destitute and hungry – be that an unexpected bill, bereavement or the loss of income caused by benefit delay.

“Particularly concerning are the very high numbers of disabled people or people with mental health problems needing foodbanks.

“These findings reaffirm how vital the work of foodbanks and generosity of donors is, but are also a clear challenge to the new Government to do more to stop people ending up in crisis in the first place.”

Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Debbie Abrahams said: “This report builds on previous research directly linking increased use of foodbanks with the Conservatives’ punitive sanctions regime.

Debbie Abrahams blamed “Tory austerity” (Photo: Daily Mirror)

“It is further evidence of the total failure of the Tory austerity project, which as this data shows is disproportionately punishing people with mental health conditions and disabilities.”

“The fact that four out of five foodbank users go hungry over a year cannot be allowed to continue.”

“That’s why the next Labour Government will transform the social security system so that, like the NHS, it is there for us all in our time of need.”

A Government spokesman said: “We’re helping millions of households meet the everyday cost of living and keep more of what they earn while also spending over £90billion a year in extra support for those who need it.

“Employment is the best route out of poverty, and with record numbers of people – including disabled people – now in work, we’ve made great progress. WHAT A LOAD OF BS!

“But we want to go even further to help ordinary families. That’s why we’ve doubled free childcare, introduced Universal Credit and increased the National Living Wage and tax free Personal Allowance to make sure it always pays to be in work.” SOURCE

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