The biggest network of food banks in the UK says it provided record levels of “emergency food supplies” last year.
The annual figures from the Trussell Trust charity show a 13% increase, providing 1.3 million three-day food packages for “people in crisis”.
The Trust warns that the increase has been driven by those on benefits not being able to afford basic essentials.
Between the 1st April 2017 and the 31st March 2018, Trussell Trust foodbanks in the North West gave out 197,182 three-day emergency food supplies to people in crisis, a 13% increase on the previous year. 74,557 of these went to children.
In Greater Manchester alone, 70,112 received emergency supplies, up from 58,792 in the previous year.
The Trust has warned that food bank usage in areas where Universal Credit has been in place for a year or more has surged by 52% in the 12 months to the end of March, compared to a 13% broader increase in the use of its food banks nationwide.
The Trust, a network covering two-thirds of the UK’s food banks, said that 28% of their users found benefits were not covering the cost of essentials, 24% needed help due to delays in receiving benefits, and 18% due to changes in their benefits.
The Independent Food Aid Network, which represents a third of food banks not covered by the Trust, said that its food banks were increasingly serving people who were in work, but still unable to afford the basics, including those on zero-hours contracts, and “public sector staff who just can’t pay all their bills.”
Responding to the report Jim McMahon, MP for Oldham West and Royton, said:
“The Trussell Trust findings are yet more evidence that the Government’s flagship Universal Credit programme has hit the rocks, placing people on low incomes in a desperate situation. Coupled with draconian reforms to the benefit system, it is forcing desperate families to Foodbanks just so they can try to make ends meet and feed their children.
“I see this evidence first hand in Oldham, where volunteers at the local Foodbank do a tremendous job but are swamped by demand for their service. It is a clearer sign as any that the Government has reduced our benefits system to being not fit for purpose.
“My plea to this Government is to halt the roll out of Universal Credit until an independent body made up of charities and public agencies agree it is fit for purpose. Until that happens, I fear we are going to see this situation get much worse.”