Today (19 July), the findings are published from one of the most systematic and detailed studies yet conducted of people receiving emergency food in the UK. Still Hungry has been prepared by University of Oxford and University of Chester researchers, drawing on statistical data from West Cheshire Foodbank, an ally of Church Action on Poverty.
The report highlights again many of the pressing issues of food poverty we are working to tackle through our campaigns:
- Crisis could hit anyone. Most food parcels went to people in highly disadvantaged areas, but parcels were distributed to people living in more affluent areas too.
- Problems in the benefits system are one of the biggest causes of food poverty. Benefit delays were responsible for one in five referrals while benefit sanctions were responsible for one in 12 referrals.
- Large numbers of children are going hungry. A third of those receiving help from West Cheshire Foodbank, and one in five of people affected by benefit sanctions, were children.
The report includes many stories like Will’s:
While looking for new work, Will paid to go on a chainsaw licence course in Preston. Getting up at 4:00am to attend meant he was unable to apply for jobs, but this meant he missed the target number of jobs needed for Jobseekers’ Allowance and his money was stopped for two weeks. Will was then put on a mandatory work programme, but was unable to collect his money from the Post Office until 9:00am, so couldn’t get to the programme for 7:00am. He was sanctioned for two months.
David McAuley, CEO at The Trussell Trust, said:
“The work of The Trussell Trust’s foodbank network and sustained commitment from its volunteers has provided much-needed support for people in crisis; yet this alone will not solve the problem of hunger. Charities can be part of the solution but they cannot be the sole solution. We are at a pivotal point in British politics post the EU referendum, with a new Prime Minister soon to take a seat who has an opportunity to make social justice the centrepiece of what they do. Now more than ever we must work together to ensure fewer families face poverty. There’s an opportunity for all of us to look at the body of evidence in the report, particularly on sanctions, where an alternative approach would help tackle the underlying causes of hunger.”
Dr Elisabeth Garratt, report author and postdoctoral research fellow at the Centre for Social Investigation, based at Nuffield College, Oxford University, said:
“Our research demonstrates the persistence of hunger in 21st century Britain. Referrals have risen in 2016 and there is every indication that foodbanks are here to stay. One in three people receiving emergency food from West Cheshire Foodbank is a child, indicating shocking levels of poverty that are unacceptable in a country as wealthy as ours. Despite enormous commitment on the part of volunteers, the provision of emergency food cannot address the underlying and long-term causes of food poverty. We call upon the Government to take effective steps to ensure that foodbanks do not become an established part of our society.”
Revd Christine Jones, Chair of Trustees at West Cheshire Foodbank, said:
“In a prosperous country, it is completely unacceptable that national policy consistently fails to respond effectively to the evidence that ongoing hunger remains a reality for increasing numbers of people. In order to avoid food banks becoming a permanent part of the welfare furniture, it is critical that we all understand and act on the drivers of food poverty together.”