UK
11/07/2013 06:27 BST | Updated 11/07/2013 10:59 BST

Food Bank Use Tripled After Welfare Changes, Says Trussell Trust

Three times as many people received emergency supplies from Trussell Trust food banks in the three months from April this year compared with the same period last year and Government's welfare changes have been blamed for the surge in demand.

The figures come shortly after remarks by both millionaire ex-investment banker Lord Freud and Education Secretary Michael Gove that the government does not believe benefit changes are to blame for the need for emergency food.

Some 152,154 people received three days' worth of emergency food between April 1 and June 30, up from 49,596 last year.

food bank uk

Volunteers begin to process a food voucher at a Food Bank depot at St. Paul's Church in Brixton

The charity said 52% of people were referred to the foodbanks by care professionals as a result of benefits problems, up from 43% in the same period in 2012.

Of those referrals, 19% were due to changes in the benefits people were entitled to and 33% were due to delays in payments.

Trussell Trust executive chairman Chris Mould said: "The reality is that there is a clear link between benefit delays or changes and people turning to foodbanks, and that the situation has got worse in the last three months.

"Since April's welfare reforms we've seen more people referred to foodbanks because of benefit delays or changes.

"Our foodbanks are reporting that many local authorities and agencies are unclear about what help is available to individuals who would previously have been helped by the social fund and are consequently giving poor or inappropriate advice to people.

"We've had people in crisis calling us saying that their local authority told them to ring the foodbank for help with their gas and electric.

"We're also seeing more people turning to us who have been sanctioned for seemingly illogical reasons and we're helping people who cannot afford the bedroom tax but are unable to move house."

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Food Banks Not Linked With Growing Poverty, Says Millionaire Lord Freud

Mould called for the Government to take action before the introduction of the universal credit begins in October.

He said: "We are calling on the Government to listen to what's happening on the ground, to realise that when the welfare system breaks down, it means families go hungry.

"Many of these issues are avoidable but they must be addressed urgently, before universal credit is rolled out in October.

"This is not about politics, it's about recognising that we're living in a difficult economic climate where more people in poverty are struggling to cope and that we need to work together to find solutions so that the poorest and most vulnerable don't go hungry."

He denied suggestions from welfare reform minister Lord Freud that the rise in the number of people using foodbanks was because more of them had opened.

He added: "Trussell Trust foodbanks don't operate a 'drop-in' system: everyone who comes to a Trussell Trust foodbank is referred by a trusted and respected front line care professional such a social worker or parent support advisor, who will first assess the need and issue a voucher.

"Flat-lining incomes, rising living costs and lack of work means that incomes are being squeezed to breaking point.

"Everything we're seeing and hearing is that problems for people on low incomes are growing and the need is very real."

In the Lords last week, the minister said "it's difficult to know which came first - the supply or demand" for foodbanks.

He added: "What I meant was if you put more foodbanks in, that is the supply.

"Clearly food from a foodbank is by definition a free good and there's almost infinite demand."

And Gove also drew criticism for suggesting "chaotic homes" were to blame for children going hungry to school, not a lack of cash.

"When children arrive at school not having eaten breakfast, it’s more often or not because they’ve grown up in chaotic homes rather than the fact that the finite amount of financial resources entering that home is insufficient to ensure that the children are fed," he told a Church of England seminar.