William Eichler 05 November 2019

Benefit problems ‘widespread’ among food bank users

Problems with the welfare system affected two-thirds of people at food banks over the last year, a charity has revealed.

A new study commissioned by the Trussell Trust has found that 94% of people at food banks are destitute and have an average weekly income of only £50 after paying rent.

The ‘State of Hunger 2019’ report, written by researchers at Heriot-Watt University, also found that almost three-quarters of people at food banks live in households affected by ill-health or disability and are in arrears. Around 22% are single parents.

‘State of Hunger 2019’, the result of a three-year long research project, discovered that the most common source of income for people at food banks was the benefits system.

However, it found that problems with benefits were ‘widespread’.

A spokesperson for the Department for Work & Pensions said they were ‘not complacent’ and had ‘already’ spent £95bn a year on welfare. They added that the DWP had also simplified the benefits system through Universal Credit – ‘making it easier for people to access support.’

The Trussell Trust’s report, however, found that problems with the benefits system affected two-thirds of people at food banks last year.

The main problems it identified included a reduction in the value of benefit payments, being turned down for disability benefits, being sanctioned, and delays in payments like the five week wait for Universal Credit.

‘Any of us could be hit by a health issue or job loss – the difference is what happens when that hits,’ said the Trussell Trust chief executive Emma Revie.

‘We created a benefits system because we’re a country that believes in making sure financial support is there for each other if it’s needed.

‘The question that naturally arises, then, is why the incomes of people at food banks are so low, despite being supported by that benefits system?

‘Many of us are being left without enough money to cover the most basic costs. We cannot let this continue in our country.

‘This can change – our benefits system could be the key to unlocking people from poverty if our Government steps up and makes the changes needed. How we treat each other when life is hard speaks volumes about us as a nation. We can do better than this.’

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