A new study finds errors and delays in the benefits system forces many claimants to turn to food banks
Some useful reading for the new work and pensions secretary Damian Green: another report providing compelling evidence that the most significant factors driving UK food bank use are problems caused or exacerbated by the welfare system he oversees.
Still Hungry, a detailed study published this week by West Cheshire food bank, says benefit-related issues accounted for 41% of all referrals to its services over two years. Its findings are in line with national food bank research, and it reaches similar conclusions to other studies as to why people end up in food banks.
Most of West Cheshire’s six recommendations on how to reduce the rising numbers of people dependent on its charity food handouts focus on welfare policy: more efficient jobcentre administration, a less punitive sanctions system, adequate levels of benefit payment, and a properly functioning local welfare safety net.
The study shows how benefits error, delays and sanctions cause chaos and misery by effectively shutting off income to vulnerable claimants already teetering on the financial brink. Here’s the experience of Alice, a West Cheshire food bank user:
“Alice’s husband (51 years old) was on ESA as he previously had a stroke and an epileptic fit. A few weeks ago he was told he was fit for work and he should sign on for JSA. As a result of this he was sent on a work programme to college in Ellesmere Port, had another stroke and epileptic fit at college and was taken to hospital where the doctors said he wasn’t fit for work. Jobcentre Plus agreed he should be on ESA. He had no money for over a month. It will be another two weeks before Alice gets any money. Alice is legally responsible for her grand-daughter.”