Over the last five years, the number of emergency food parcels provided to people in crisis by food banks in the Trussell Trust’s network has increased by 73%. No charity can replace the dignity of buying your own food. To help end the need for food banks, the Trussell Trust commissioned State of Hunger – the most authoritative piece of independent research into hunger in the UK to date. Here’s what the research reveals…
State of Hunger research found that people who have been referred to a food bank:
have an average weekly income after housing costs of just £50
cannot afford to buy the absolute essentials that we all need to eat, stay warm and dry, and keep clean – with 94% facing real destitution
are very likely to have health issues – with nearly 75% reporting at least one health issue
have a household income that was about the same as their housing costs
are very likely to be facing long-term crisis
have problems with the benefit system, with over two-thirds reporting issues with the system in the last year
Download the full report
We know that people use food banks only when they have no other choice.
average weekly income after housing costs for people referred to food banks
of people reporting no income at all in the month before
“If I don’t pay my bills, then I’ll get the house taken off me. After paying arrears, I’ve got £8 a fortnight and that’s to pay for gas, electric, water. It’s just impossible, it really is. I go to bed at night wishing I won’t wake up in the morning.”
“I’ve used the food bank because I was on such a low income before I got my disability benefit… I had a mental breakdown because basically the amount they give me doesn’t cover the costs of my rent.”
of people at food banks have a health issue, or live with someone who does
of people at food banks live in households affected by a mental health problem
Often, it’s the people most in need of support who are forced to use a food bank.
“I can tell you I’ve self-harmed because of it all [benefits problems]. My bulimia got worse. My personality disorder, I got more and more erratic. It was because there was no understanding.”
this is not right.
What’s driving people to food banks?
The research tells us, for the first time, the key drivers behind food bank use.
Problems with the benefit system were a big factor driving people to food banks:
Two-thirds of people referred to food banks had a problem with the benefits system in the last year.
Key benefits problems were: a reduction in the value of benefit payments, being turned down for disability benefits, being sanctioned, and delays in payments like the five week wait for Universal Credit.
40% of people referred to food banks were having money taken off their benefits to repay debts, with the vast majority repaying the DWP.
Ill health and challenging life experiences like eviction, divorce or losing a job pushed many people into hunger and poverty:
Most people referred to food banks have had at least one challenging life experience in the year before needing to use a food bank, making it more difficult for them to earn money or engage with the welfare system, or increasing their expenses.
Most people either didn’t have or had exhausted formal and informal support and had nowhere else to turn:
“If it wasn’t for using the food bank, I don’t know what I would have done … Probably just gone without, I suppose, because you can’t really get any help from the DWP or anything now. … If it wasn’t for the food bank, I would have had to just wait it out.”
In the UK, we believe in supporting each other.
We rely on the NHS for our healthcare, the police for our safety, the fire department in an emergency.
Our benefit system exists to support people. But right now, it’s not working for everyone.
Problems with the benefit system aren’t the only reason why someone might need to visit a food bank, but two-thirds of people who have used a food bank in the Trussell Trust’s network had a problem with the benefits system in the year before they needed emergency food. Low benefit levels, delays to payments, deductions,Explanation for deductions goes here and sanctions Explanation for sanctions goes hereall play a part.
“My health is why I had to give up work so that’s why I had to go on benefits. I had to then use a food bank… You’ve got no work but you’ve still got rent to pay, you’ve still got bills to pay, … but you’re not getting any income. Everything just piles up.”
This can change.
The good news is that it’s in our power to change this. We created the benefits system, and together we can fix it so that it works for everyone.
Here’s what we need the next government to do:
Make sure people are paid their benefits more quickly. Ending the five-week wait for Universal Credit is the first step.
Ensure benefits provide enough money for people to have a decent standard of living – the value of benefits must be restored to make up for the losses experienced under the benefits freeze.
We need the Department for Work & Pensions to be a responsible lender, not forcing people to pay back money they can’t afford to do without.
Restore emergency local welfare provision for people in crisis, funded by central government, so people aren’t forced to food banks.
What you can do to help:
Nine in 10 people in our nation believe hunger in the UK is a problem. We couldn’t agree more.
Together, we can end the need for food banks in the UK.
State of Hunger © 2019. The Trussell Trust is Reg. Charity in England & Wales (1110522) and Scotland (SC044246). Reg. Ltd. Co. in England & Wales (5434524).