Food banks in the Trussell Trust’s network are reporting their busiest month ever, with an 89% increase in emergency food parcels given to people across the UK in April 2020 compared to the same period in 2019.
The figures include a 107% increase in parcels going to children compared to last year. The number of families with children receiving parcels has almost doubled compared to the same period last year.
Independent food banks are seeing similar increases, with IFAN reporting a 175% increase in need for emergency food parcels given out in the UK during April 2020 compared to the same month last year.
A coalition of charities, including the Trussell Trust, IFAN, Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG), Children’s Society, Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF), StepChange and Turn2us, is urging the government to act quickly in providing a stronger lifeline to people to prevent many from being swept into destitution.
Measures brought in by the government, including the Coronavirus Jobs Retention scheme, the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme and changes aimed specifically at people on low incomes, have helped some people stay afloat.
But these new figures warn far more people are needing food banks’ help than this time last year, with little sign of slowing. With these schemes set to wind down over the coming months and other measures proving to be insufficient, the charities say further action is urgently needed to ensure no one is left behind during this crisis.
The coalition says a first step should be to make sure local authorities in England have enough funding to provide emergency cash grant funding so money can be put directly into people’s pockets quickly.
An increase in funding to local authorities in England would help bring the government response on this type of support closer to that of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The scheme would include increasing benefits that go to families to help with the costs of raising children
Extending the suspension of benefit deductions to include advance payments through a loan offered to cover the five-week wait for a first Universal Credit payment and lifting the benefit cap to ensure this support scheme benefits everyone
Chief executive of the Trussell Trust Emma Revie says:
“We have been seeing rises in food bank need for the past five years but this 89% increase – with the number of families coming to food banks doubling – is completely unprecedented and not right. People need to be able to put food on their table. The government must put urgent support in place to ensure people already struggling to keep their heads above water can stay afloat. We have outlined what we need our government to do – it’s in our power to protect one another, we’ve seen it during this health crisis, and we need it to continue during this economic one.”
Coordinator of the Independent Food Aid Network Sabine Goodwin says:
“Our food bank figures paint a grim picture of what is unfolding across the UK and the numbers of people having to resort to emergency food parcels to survive. But the solution to the escalating food insecurity crisis has never been the provision of charitable food aid. Everyone needs to be able to afford to buy food and the bare essentials. Our joint call details how this can start to be achieved and we urge the Government to act swiftly and decisively to reverse this devastating trend.”