Demand for food banks in London has gone up again, according to a report released today, with 96,000 people seeking help over food poverty since April 2013.
The ‘Below the Breadline’ report, produced by The Trussell Trust, Oxfam and Church Action on Poverty, identifies the causes as changes to the benefits system, a punitive sanctions regime, a lack of decent work and rising living costs. It’s not just down to welfare reforms — a 43% increase in food prices over the previous eight years combined with an average fall of £936 in the annual disposable income of 20% of Britain’s poorest aren’t helping either.
Back in February, we wrote about the 400% increase in food bank use in just two years, and it doesn’t look like things have improved. Trussell Trust chair Chris Mould, said the fact they had to help 300,000 children is ‘a national disgrace':
“The troubling reality is that there are also thousands more people struggling with food poverty who have no access to food aid, or are too ashamed to seek help, as well as a large number of people who are only just coping by eating less and buying cheap food.”
Unsurprisingly, the government rejects the charities’ findings. A spokesperson for Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) said welfare safety net was left out of the report:
“We’ve also helped families by cutting the cost of living, more people are in work helping to support their family, benefits are being paid to claimants more quickly and according to independent experts fewer people report struggling with their food bills compared with a few years ago.”
More people may well be in work, but as we’ve pointed out before, paid work doesn’t prevent people needing to claim benefits. According to the report, ‘protecting its citizens from going hungry is one of the most fundamental duties of government’ — the very existence of food banks amply demonstrates how the government have failed in this duty. Fortunately, not everyone believes the government’s risible claim that food bank usage has nothing to do with welfare reforms, or the tripe that was printed by the Daily Mail in April which led to a massive increase in donations to the Trussell Trust. The charity said it provided 23m meals to people nationally in 2013 compared to 13m in 2012.
Photo by leica0000 in the Londonist Flickr pool.