In Brief

Food bank use in UK at record high

Study shows 52% increase in usage in areas where universal credit has been rolled out

The number of people who are dependent on food banks is soaring as welfare benefits fail to cover basic living costs, a new study warns.

Annual figures from The Trussell Trust, the UK’s biggest food bank network, show that a record 1.3 million food parcels were given to an estimated total of 666,000 people in 2017-18 - a 13% increase on the previous year.

In areas where the Government’s universal credit scheme has been fully rolled out for 12 months or more, the figures were even more damning, with a 52% increase in emergency food packages recorded. 

The Northwest remains the region with the greatest demand for food banks, with 197,182 food parcels handed out last year, of which 74,577 were for children, Sky News reports.

Emma Revie, the Trust’s chief executive, said: “This is completely unacceptable. We need to move towards a UK where no one needs a food bank’s help, not a country where charity provision is the only defence from utter destitution.

“It’s hard to break free from hunger if there isn’t enough money coming in to cover the rising cost of absolute essentials like food and housing. For too many people, staying above water is a daily struggle. It’s completely unacceptable that anyone is forced to turn to a foodbank as a result.”

Problems in the roll-out of universal credit, including long waiting times for payment, has also forced many people into debt, ill health and rent arrears, the Trust says.

However, the Department for Work and Pensions insisted that universal credit was “working for the vast majority who claim it”, and that the Trussell Trust’s research was based on a small sample and carried out before “significant improvements” were made to the system. 

A spokesperson for the department told the Financial Times: “The reasons why people use food banks are complex, so it’s wrong to link a rise to any one cause.”

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