Food banks will come under intense pressure to cope with new demand after the government’s April welfare reforms come into force, the head of the UK’s Trussell Trust has warned ahead of this week’s Budget.
The charity has urged the Chancellor to recognise the UK’s hidden hungry by releasing new details of the richest areas where people are still forced to resort to food banks – including one round the corner from the Queen.
Volunteers put a selection of tinned food together for a client at a depot at St Paul's Church, Brixton
Trussell Trust Executive Chairman Chris Mould told HuffPost UK: "There is a Trussell Trust foodbank a stone’s throw from Buckingham Palace and another in the seeming rural idyll of Chipping Camden. Hunger is everywhere, but it’s often hidden.
In his 2012 autumn financial statement, the chancellor said most working-age benefits will rise by only 1% for each of the next three years: a figure below inflation, meaning a cut in real terms.
The Lib Dems have vowed to oppose any further cuts to benefits, but there is a chance childcare vouchers could be targeted for the chop.
In addition, the government's benefits' cap and universal credit scheme will come into force in April - expected to dramatically affected working families in council accommodation in richer areas like certain London boroughs.
The North Cotswold foodbank has distribution centres in Winchcombe, Chipping Campden, Moreton in the Marsh, Bourton-in-the-Water and Naunton (one of the most idyllic places in England according to The Times last year).
WOULD YOU EXPECT A FOOD BANK HERE?
Some foodbanks have opened in the country's richest areas:
- Less than three miles from the racecourse, Cheltenham opened its foodbank in 2011
- Exeter, which often tops the UK best quality of life polls, opened its foodbank in 2008
- The Lake District – home to Beatrix Potter and a thriving tourism industry – opened a foodbank (North Lakes foodbank) in 2009
- Foodbanks in London’s trendy Islington (opened 2011), Westminster (2011), Kensington & Chelsea (2012) complement Clapham and Hammersmith & Fulham which opened in 2010.
- Wadebridge, a Cornish holiday hotspot, opened a foodbank in 2009
- The wealthy suburbs and commuter belts around London are home to foodbanks in Welywn Garden City (2011), Harrow (2013), Farnborough (2009) and Farnham (2010).
- Foodbanks opened last year in the genteel market town of Harrogate
- The south coast, often considered to be genteel and well to do, has foodbanks in South Hampshire property hot spot Ivybridge (2013), sailing havens Falmouth (2009), Chichester (2012), and the Isle of Wight (2011)
Critics have already warned about drastic changes to the administration system which are needed to make universal credit workable and concerns that a new database will not be ready in time.
Mould said that, already, "the two main reasons that people were referred to foodbanks in 2011-12 were benefit delay and low income.
“We’re already seeing families whose incomes are stretched to breaking point turn to foodbanks because they cannot afford food,” he said. Recent research by the Centre for Economic and Business Research commissioned by Kellogg’s show prices are predicted to rise by £357 per year by 2016.
Mould continued: “Numbers helped by Trussell Trust foodbanks are expected to top 300,000 this financial year and April’s proposed welfare reforms will squeeze finances even further, making it easier for people to hit a crisis that forces them to go hungry.”
Chancellor George Osborne has been asked not to add taxes to food or cut benefits
Earlier this month, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby voiced fears that proposed welfare reforms could plunge another 200,000 youngsters into poverty
Mould told HuffPost UK: “There’s a misconception that UK hunger is about homelessness but the reality is that one in five UK mums regularly skip meals to feed their children and less than 5% of foodbank clients are homeless.
"Foodbanks are seeing working people come in on their lunchbreaks. If incomes are reduced further food poverty will get worse."
The Trust have launched a £1m Easter Appeal to help them cope with the expected increase in demand after welfare reforms come into force.