Tax Credit Cuts Will Result In More Families Using Foodbanks, Trussell Trust Warns

Tax credit cuts could see a "substantial rise" in the use of foodbanks, the country's largest provider of them has said.

The Trussell Trust also said delays to benefits payments were most the common reason for the rising number of referrals to foodbanks.

The charity revealed its food banks gave three-day emergency food supplies to people in crisis 506,369 times in the last six months, compared to 492,641 in the same period last year.

Delays to benefits payments accounted for close to 29% of referrals, the charity said.

The SNP said "Tory ministers have their head in the sand on the issue" while Labour said "any government with an ounce of decency" would abandon the tax credit cuts.

A total of 185,218 of the three-day supplies given in the last six months went to children. In all, around 298,000 people received help from foodbanks in that period.

The trust's foodbank director Adrian Curtis said the use was "still at worryingly high levels", adding: "When the proposed changes to tax credits are implemented, we are concerned that more working families will not be able to make ends meet, and that we could see a substantial rise in foodbank use as a result.

"As a nation we need to learn more about the realities of life for people struggling on low incomes and make sure that no incomes are too low to live on."

Though he acknowledged the increase was less dramatic than previous six-monthly updates, he added: "We look forward to the day that we can announce a decrease in numbers needing foodbanks...

"Several foodbanks are reporting that some agencies and charities who would normally refer people in crisis to foodbanks have been unable to do so because funding reductions have caused their services to be squeezed or closed.

"We’re seeing that hunger remains a major issue for low income families and individuals."

Shadow Work And Pensions Secretary Owen Smith told The Huffington Post UK the figures were "deeply worrying" and the charity's warning about tax credit cuts was "yet another reason why the government need to fully reverse the proposed cuts in next week’s Autumn Statement”.

"Inflation is at zero, wages have started to rise and unemployment has fallen, yet we are seeing more and more of our friends and neighbours reduced to relying on foodbanks to feed their families," he said.

"Any government with an ounce of decency would see these figures, wake up to the scale of their failure and change course - especially as nearly 200,000 children were fed by foodbanks over the last six months."

The SNP's Kevin Stewart called the figures "alarming" and said "Tory Ministers have their head in the sand" over the role delays and changes to benefits was playing in forcing people to rely on charity.

He added: "That any government would consider further cuts to the incomes of the poorest families in our society in the face of such clear evidence of rising poverty is appalling... We will not let up on our opposition to these callous cuts."

The report cites the case of a working single mum was helped by a food bank when she had a problem with sickness and working tax credits being stopped as a result.

She said: "It can happen to you just like that. I always thought surely it can’t be me, I still have my job, I can get by. But now I think you can only be a few steps away. It’s all circumstantial. I really don’t know what I would’ve done if the foodbank hadn’t been there.

‘When you’ve got children that’s the worry, they’ve got needs. If it was just me it would be totally different.

"But when you have someone depending on you, and when you can’t provide for them, it’s scary, it’s really scary. I was in a very dark place, and I honestly don’t know what I would’ve done if the foodbank hadn’t been there."

Key findings of the report:

  • Overall rise of three percent on last year’s figures
  • Hunger still major concern for low income families
  • Foodbanks increasingly providing additional services to help people out of poverty

Trussell Trust chief executive David McAuley said: "Responsibility for helping people out of crisis must not rest with the voluntary sector alone, which is why we also need to see more high-level policy changes that help the poorest and reduce the number of people needing foodbanks in future.

"We’re seeking to engage politicians across parties in better understanding the reality of hunger and its causes. We want to see hunger and poverty eradicated in the UK, and I’d like to be reporting a massive drop in foodbank usage this time next year."

A spokesman for the Department of Work and Pensions said the reasons people used foodbanks were "complex and overlapping" and claiming it was driven by benefit delays was "misleading".

He added: "The vast majority of benefits are paid on time, and improvements are being made year on year.

“Work and a strong economy are the best way to help people out of poverty. We now have record employment and near record numbers of vacancies in this country, meaning everyone has the opportunity to benefit from our growing economy.

“In addition, we continue to spend around £80bn a year on working age benefits so we have a strong safety net in place to support millions of people who are unemployed or on low incomes.”

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