The trust demanded urgent changes to the UK benefit system as it recorded a year-on-year 19% surge in the number of food bags it gave out, the biggest annual increase for five years. Its emergency food supplies has grown for five consecutive years – a 73% increase overall – the charity warned that food banks could not keep expanding indefinitely to cover for a failing social security system.
The Trussell Trust’s chief executive, Emma Revie, said it was unacceptable that people had to use food banks in the first place, and the state should not rely on them to fix its shortcomings. “We do not want to be a part of the welfare state, we can’t be a part of the system.” Revie continued, “What we are seeing year-upon-year is more and more people struggling to eat because they simply cannot afford food. This is not right.”
The trust’s figures show that a fifth of all referrals to food banks last year were linked to delays in receiving benefits, and almost half of these were related to universal credit. Many claimants do not have the savings to cope with over a month without income, putting them in rent arrears.
Aside from universal credit, the trust reported that a third of referrals to food banks last year were as a result of “low income” – meaning those referred were unable to meet the cost of living, the majority as a result of inadequate benefits income. Most working-age benefits have been frozen since 2016.
Sabine Goodwin, of the Independent Food Aid Network, said the latest figures told only half the story: “These shocking statistics from the Trussell Trust must result in drastic changes that will see the repair of a broken benefits system and the payment of adequate wages.”
Campbell Robb, chief executive of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, said: “When the use of food banks reaches a record high we are beyond the language of warning signs and wake-up calls. Unless we take bold action to solve poverty we risk undermining what we stand for as a country.”