NEW figures released by the Trussell Trust reveal that 1.5 million emergency food parcels were provided to people between April and September 2023, by food banks in the charity’s UK-wide network.
This is the greatest number of parcels that the network has ever distributed at this point in the year and represents a 16 per cent increase from the same period in 2022.
Low incomes, especially from social security, debt, health conditions and issues with social security payments, such as delays or sanctions, were the main reasons people were left with no option but to turn to a food bank for help.
A record 540,000 food parcels were provided for more than 265,000 children living in families who could not afford the essentials. This is an 11 per cent increase compared to the same period last year, reflecting the continuing rise in need for the support provided by food banks. The new data also revealed that 65 per cent of all the parcels provided by Trussell Trust food banks between April and September this year were for families with children.
Furthermore, the charity has reported that an alarming 320,000 people have needed to use a food bank for the first time in the past six months, warning that food banks are at “breaking point” as more and more people in communities across the UK find themselves unable afford the essentials.
The Trussell Trust believes that the situation is unlikely to change in the coming months. This stark new data has led them to forecast that food banks in their network will distribute more than a million emergency food parcels between December 2023 and February 2024 – the equivalent of providing a parcel every eight seconds this winter.
Jess Holliday, Deputy CEO at Eastbourne Foodbank said: “At Eastbourne Foodbank, our donations are down even as need remains very high. We are deeply concerned about the alarming rise in the number of children needing our support. Last month, 633 of the food parcels we provided were for children. Day after day, people tell us they simply don’t have enough money to buy the basics. A client told me, ‘I have sold my car. I have sold everything and cut everything out. But that’s still not enough. All I want is enough money to pay the basic bills and have some left to buy my own food.’”
In order to reduce these relentless levels of need, the Trussell Trust is calling on the UK Government to use the upcoming Autumn Statement to protect households on the lowest incomes.
Emma Revie, Chief Executive at the Trussell Trust said: “These statistics are extremely alarming. An increasing number of children are growing up in families facing hunger, forced to turn to food banks to survive. A generation is growing up believing that it’s normal to see a food bank in every community. This is not right.
“Rising hunger and hardship have devastating consequences for individuals and our communities, damage the nation’s health and hold back our economy. People in work, as well as people who cannot work, are increasingly being pushed into debt and forced to turn to a food bank to survive.
“That’s why the UK Government must build on its work to protect people from increasingly severe hardship and commit to putting an Essentials Guarantee into legislation, to embed in our social security system the widely supported principle that, at a minimum, Universal Credit should protect people from going without essentials.
“We recognise this change cannot happen overnight, which is why we are also calling on the Government to urgently confirm in the Autumn Statement that benefits will rise in line with inflation next April, and to reduce the burden of debt deductions which drive unacceptable levels of hardship.”
Alison Garnham, Chief Executive of Child Poverty Action Group said: “With millions of families living so precariously, there can be no justification for failing to keep benefits aligned with inflation in the Autumn Statement. It couldn’t be clearer – families cannot absorb another real-terms income cut. The Chancellor must do right by the children in these statistics and ensure benefits catch up with inflation.”
These figures from the Trussell Trust do not include the food aid distributed by more than a thousand independent food banks operating across the UK.
The Trussell Trust is encouraging people to show their support for people facing hardship by signing a petition urging UK political party leaders to support the introduction of an Essentials Guarantee to ensure that the basic rate of Universal Credit at least covers life’s essentials, such as food and bills.
* Find out more here
* Sign the petition for an Essentials Guarantee here.