By Kelly Wickham
Mid-year statistics from a food charity show more people than ever are being forced to use food banks in Chichester.
According to the Trussell Trust, a charity which runs 1,200 of the 2,000 food banks in the UK, the top four reasons for referral to a food bank in the Trussell Trust network in April to September were low income, benefit delay, benefit change and debt.
April to September was the busiest first six months of the year for food banks in the Trussell Trust network since the charity opened. This is a 23 per cent increase on the same period in 2018 – the sharpest increase the charity has seen for the past five years.
Joanne Kondabeka, manager of Chichester District Foodbank, said: “In the 21st century we should never have to witness the continual rise in the use of food banks.
“Low income, high cost of living and the five week wait for universal credit has seen Chichester district food bank’s first six-month figures rise by 33 per cent, compared to last year.
“In a country where we celebrate state provision for the NHS and education, we should not be witnessing food banks becoming the safety net for a failing welfare state system, where, since 2016, benefit payments have been frozen while the standard of living continues to rise. People are having to wait five weeks or more for their benefits to come through, the advance allowance throwing people into debt for the first 12 months while they lose 30 per cent of their benefit to pay it back and where the benefit cap on housing means people have to find the shortfall as rents are high in the district.”
“Nobody chooses to use a food bank. The people who walk through our doors are so desperate to feed themselves and their children they have to swallow their pride and admit they need help.
“If I had a pound for every time I heard someone say, `I am so ashamed to come to a food bank’, I would be a millionaire.
“As the country faces a general election, it is important we ask candidates from all parties what they are going to do to improve the welfare state so that food banks don’t have to exist any more.”
These new statistics come just after the Trussell Trust released State of Hunger, the largest ever piece of research conducted into poverty and food bank use in the UK.
The report found that 94 per cent of people who use a food bank are in destitution, and the average weekly income after housing costs for a household needing to use a food bank was just £50.
As the general election approaches, the Trussell Trust is calling for politicians on all sides to work towards a future where no one needs a food bank and pledge to protect people from hunger by ensuring everyone has enough money for the basics.
Emma Revie, chief executive of the Trussell Trust, said: “This is the busiest six months we’ve ever seen – more people than ever are being forced to food banks’ doors.
“Our benefits system is supposed to protect us all from being swept into poverty, but currently thousands of women, men and children are not receiving sufficient protection from destitution. This is not right.
“But we know this situation can be fixed – our benefits system could be the key to unlocking people from poverty. This general election, all political parties must pledge to protect people from hunger by ensuring everyone has enough money for the basics. We’re asking politicians to start working towards a future where no one needs a food bank by ending the five week wait for universal credit, ensuring benefit payments cover the cost of living and investing in local emergency support for people in crisis.
“Together, these three changes will put money back into the pockets of people who most need our support. It’s in our power as a country to end the need for food banks. This can change.”