In Brief

Food bank use hits record high in Britain

Government benefit policies blamed as charity hands out 1.5m parcels in 12 months

Food banks in the UK handed out a record-breaking number of parcels over the past year, according to a leading hunger charity.

The Trussell Trust, which helps run a nationwide network of food banks, said that between April 2018 and March 2019, 1,583,668 three-day emergency food supplies were given to people in crisis.

“Benefit cuts, universal credit delays, and rising poverty fuelled the busiest year in the charity’s history,” says The Guardian.

The Trussell Trust says that people on benefits are the most typical recipients of food bank parcels, but a significant proportion of three-day food supplies, about 320,000, go to people in employment.

More than half a million parcels handed out went to households with children, adding to concerns about rising child poverty. Last month, government data revealed that the number of youngsters living in absolute poverty had increased by 200,000 in a year – to a total of 3.7m.

The Trussell Trust said issues with the government’s welfare reform, Universal Credit, were a “key driver” of increasing need, as claimants have to wait up to five weeks for payment under the new system.

Chief executive Emma Revie said that the benefits system is “supposed to protect us all from being swept into poverty” but instead food banks are seeing “more and more people struggling to eat because they simply cannot afford food”.

She added: “As a priority, we’re urging the Government to end the wait for Universal Credit to ease the pressure on thousands of households.”

Labour’s shadow work and pensions secretary Margaret Greenwood described the rise in food bank use as “shocking” and said the “need for emergency food parcels in one of the richest countries of the world” was “shameful”.

Campbell Robb, chief executive of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, said the rise in food bank use was a result of the government’s “consistent failure to get to grips with poverty”. He added that “we are beyond the language of warning signs and wake-up calls”.

However, a DWP spokesman insisted it “cannot be claimed that Universal Credit is driving the overall use of foodbanks or that benefit changes and delays are driving growth”.

“The Trust's own analysis shows a substantial fall in the share of parcels being issued due to benefit payment delays,” he added.

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