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Food poverty is 'systematically ignored'

13 March 2015

PA

Increasing need: William Forey, a volunteer, at a foodbank in Glasgow, in December

Increasing need: William Forey, a volunteer, at a foodbank in Glasgow, in December

NEW research into foodbanks has suggested that people who are having problems with their benefits account for almost half of all referrals.

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 referrals.

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.

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