NEW research into foodbanks has suggested that people who are
having problems with their benefits account for almost half of all
The report #Cheshirehunger: Understanding emergency food
provision in west Cheshire, by academics from the University
of Chester, and a coalition of local charities, including the
Trussell Trust and the Salvation Army, assessed a foodbank in West
Cheshire for six months.
They found that 47 per cent of those given food parcels needed
them because of difficulties with their benefits.
Twenty-three per cent of those who came to the foodbank needed
food because of administrative delays receiving their benefits; and
11 per cent were going hungry because they had been sanctioned by
their local jobcentre (
News, 6 March). A change in social security, and stoppages in
Employment Support Allowance, accounted for another 13 per cent of
The authors of the report said that there was no evidence that
people went to foodbanks because they were unable to manage their
money or to cook.
"Indeed, many on long-term low incomes are very skilled at both;
many want to buy and eat healthy food, but simply have insufficient
money to do so," the report says.
The other main factors that drove people to the foodbank were
low and insecure incomes, debt, and homelessness. The minister at
Trinity Methodist Church, in Ellesmere Port, who chairs the
trustees of the West Cheshire Foodbank, the Revd Christine Jones,
said: "Whatever the reason for emergency food use, any hunger is
unacceptable, and we are concerned that there is a level of need
which is being systematically ignored.
"We are calling on the Government to publicly accept that food
poverty is a growing problem, and to take responsibility for
protecting the poorest people in society."
The report recommends im-provements to the benefits system,
including ensuring that all payments are delivered within five
days, and that individuals are never sanctioned if it would make it
impossible for them to buy food and other essentials.
It also calls on the Government to ensure that sanctions are
used only when there have been "severe and repeated breaches of
welfare conditionality", and for all bene- fits to rise
automatically with inflation.
The report backs the Living Wage, and urges employers not to use
casual contracts or self-employment to cut costs, as they can leave
people struggling to afford the bare essentials.