Food Bank Demand Driven By Cuts And Sanctions To Benefits, New Report Finds

More than half of people driven by acute poverty to apply for emergency food aid are there because of delays, sudden cuts or sanctions imposed on welfare payments, according to new research

The Trussell Trust’s findings are a direct challenge to the coalition government’s insistence that the meteoric rise in the numbers of food bank users is unconnected to the cuts to the social security system, and is only linked to the growth in provision.

The charity, which runs the country’s largest network of food banks, analysed more than 900 different users at a range of facilities across the country, as well as conducting 40 more in-depth interviews and 178 different caseloads from people accessing one of their advice services.

Up to two-thirds of those analysed by the study, which was commissioned by the charity along with the Church of England, Oxfam and the Child Poverty Action Group, said they were waiting for their benefits which had been delayed, because they had been sanctioned by jobcentres or because they had been suddenly hit by the so-called bedroom tax.

“The promise of a social security safety net that is there to protect people at times of crisis is something that can, and must be, preserved and protected. Food banks, whilst providing a vital and welcoming lifeline to many, should not become a readily accepted part of that formal provision,“ the study says.

The Trust has handed out food parcels to at least 913,000 people from 2013-2014, a threefold increase. The Trust says those figures are a low estimate for the numbers suffering from acute personal finance crisis, many more are likely to be relying on help from friends or neighbours.

 

Read the rest of this Huffington Post article here: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2014/11/19/food-bank_0_n_6183928.html

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I was ill with hunger, went to prison for stealing food and became homeless

(This was published today on the Guardian’s Society pages)

Welfare expert Matthew Oakley should have spoken to me. I could have told him all about benefits sanctions

In collecting evidence for his review of the failings of the benefits sanctions process, welfare expert Matthew Oakley could have spoken to me. Since 2011, I’ve been sanctioned many times. I received a long benefits sanction due to a mix-up about Work Programme courses I should have attended as a condition of receiving out-of-work benefits. Life became hell. Once my food had run out, I had no money to buy more. I was sent back on the Work Programme but without funds to feed myself. The hunger was unbearable. I did not have the energy to turn up. This led to another sanction.

The sanctions became a vicious cycle as I became too ill to do anything. When I did get a job interview, I looked like a zombie as I had lost so much weight. I could not focus properly and lacked energy. Support from friends and family fell away as they assumed I was addicted to drugs. I was just hungry. I tried contacting my local MP but he did not seem interested. I felt alone and trapped. With nobody to turn to, and feeling like it was my only option, I pocketed a sandwich from a supermarket. I was arrested and fined £80. I had no way of paying and spent a week in prison for non payment. I lost my flat as I was £1,000 in rent arrears and I had piles of outstanding bills.

After a year without benefits, I approached a local homeless shelter for help. They took me in and fed me until the sanction was over. It was only in the hostel that I discovered that I was entitled to hardship payments, of which the Jobcentre had failed to inform me. I now volunteer at the homeless shelter as a thank you for all their help and because it feels good to help feed hungry people. I’ve tried my hardest to avoid more sanctions, but I’ve since been sanctioned for missing my signing in appointment, because I was at a job interview, of all things.

And I’m not alone. A research programme I’m involved in at Leeds University has heard from other people, such as Chloe, who was sanctioned for not doing enough to find work. “Four to eight weeks with no money is pretty alarming when you’ve got kids and bills and a house to run. I think I’ve cried solid for two weeks. I can’t cope,” she told researchers.

As Rosie, another single mother from the study put it: “They’re all right saying that you’re sanctioned as a punishment for not going in [for an appointment] but what am I and my son meant to eat? If that’s the only money we’re getting, what are we meant to do?” I thought “sanctions” were for criminal countries who pose a threat to the world. But now I know they are used against ordinary citizens too.

http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/jul/29/benefits-sanctions-matthew-oakley-report-hunger

 

Plymouth people too poor to afford food as 70,000 live in deprivation

MORE than 700,000 people in Plymouth and the South West are so deprived they are going without three or more of the basic necessities of life, according to a new report.

Researchers carrying out the largest study of poverty and deprivation conducted in the UK found that seven per cent of people living in the region could not afford to eat a balanced diet, while about 1.2million could not afford to heat and maintain their home properly.

Some 462,900 (nine per cent) of people could not clothe themselves or their children properly, while 982,000 of the regional population were said to be in “social deprivation” – not able to take part in hobbies and sports, or provide birthday and Christmas celebrations.

In Plymouth the latest NHS figures show 10,200 city children and 67,150 people living in poverty.

Maria Mills, of Plymouth Foodbank, says benefit cuts and the tax system are conspiring to keep people in a “poverty trap.”

“Last year we helped 7,400 people, this year it will be more than 9,000,” she said. “The biggest problem is benefit sanctions, but low income and zero hours contracts are still a big issue. It’s modern slavery.

“I think instead of paying working tax credits or child tax credits, if that money went into allowing employers to pay a decent wage we would have people who could have enough disposable income. At the moment we are keeping people in a poverty trap.”

Overall, 34 per cent were found to be “multiply deprived”. But a Department for Work and Pensions spokesman questioned the findings, saying: “There is strong evidence that incomes have improved over the last 30 years, despite the misleading picture painted by this report,” he said.

“The independent statistics are clear, there are 1.4 million fewer people in poverty since 1998, and under this Government we have successfully protected the poorest from falling behind with a reduction of 300,000 children living in relative income poverty and 100,000 fewer children in workless poor families.”

Nevertheless those behind the report – the Poverty and Social Exclusion in the United Kingdom (PSE) project – insisted they stood by the results of two surveys. Professor David Gordon, from the Townsend Centre for International Poverty Research at the University of Bristol, led the project which involved 14,559 people in the UK.

“The coalition Government aimed to eradicate poverty by tackling the causes of poverty. Their strategy has clearly failed,” he said. “The available high-quality scientific evidence shows that poverty and deprivation have increased since 2010, the poor are suffering from deeper poverty and the gap between the rich and poor is widening.

UK today: 40% of cancer patients can’t afford to heat their home properly

Pride's Purge

(not satire – it’s the UK today!)

Macmillan Cancer Support have commissioned a new report which shows the severe financial problems now being experienced by cancer patients in the UK.

The problems are entirely due to the government’s crackdown on so-called ‘benefit scroungers’ and the resulting ‘reforms’ to sickness and unemployment benefits.

Macmillan found that since the government’s changes to the welfare system:

  • 2 in 5 cancer patients now can’t afford to heat their homes adequately
  • 2 in 3 cancer patients are now waiting at least 6 months for financial help
  • 1 in 5 cancer patients are now waiting at least 9 months for financial help
  • 1 in 4 cancer patients have difficulties attending their hospital appointments for financial reasons
  • Over half (56%) of cancer patients now experience financial worries

So when you hear government ministers or the right-wing press going on about ‘benefit scroungers‘ – what they really mean is ‘cancer patients‘.

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If the definition of a civilised society is how well…

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Tory blocks food bank because ‘he can’t get a restaurant on a Saturday’

A Tory councillor has cited full restaurants as evidence that his borough doesn’t need another food bank

With Conservatives in Crawley ignoring the findings of the council’s Deprivation Scrutiny Panel — which suggested a food bank be set up at the town hall – Cllr Liam Marshall-Ascough said:

“People aren’t in poverty in terms of going without food. You try booking a restaurant in Crawley on a Friday or Saturday night. You can’t do it.”

It sounds like Cllr Marshall-Ascough would get on with government minister Lord ‘charities are to blame for food banks’ Freud.

From Politicalscrapbook, 26th March 2014: http://politicalscrapbook.net/2014/03/tory-blocks-food-bank-because-he-cant-book-restaurant-on-saturday/

Thousands of HIV patients go hungry as benefit cuts hit

Thousands of people with HIV have been left struggling in poverty by the Government’s welfare reforms – with some unable to afford the basic food they need to fight their condition.

 

The situation is now so critical that in some cases doctors are having to prescribe food supplements to ensure that patients’ medication works, The Independent on Sunday has learned.

A national hardship fund for people with HIV/Aids, run by the Terrence Higgins Trust (THT), registered a 63 per cent increase last year in those needing emergency help because their benefits had been stopped.

HIV experts described the situation as “truly alarming”, saying it was “nothing short of a disgrace” that seriously ill patients in modern Britain were having their treatments compromised by hunger. HIV medication can be less effective if taken without food.

Changes to sickness benefits introduced by the coalition – alongside other welfare reforms such as the so-called bedroom tax – have left many HIV patients significantly worse off.

Read the rest of this article by Emily Duggan in the Independent on Sunday here: http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/health-news/exclusive-thousands-of-hiv-patients-go-hungry-as-benefit-cuts-hit-9146888.htm

Those vile people sitting in the jobcentre a few feet away doing absolutely nothing.

From the facebook page ‘The People vs the Government, DWP and Atos”

“I’ve just seen this outside Devizes Job Centre:
A man standing crying and and so distressed he wet himself. He was saying ” they won’t help me! They won’t let me have any money! They say I’ve used all my foodbank vouchers”.
He proceeded to collapse to the ground and curl up in a ball, his arms around his dog. Two passers by were supporting him. One went to buy him some food & the other had gone to get him a blanket. Several people averted their eyes and hurried past!
I couldn’t do any more than was already being done for him, though I would have liked to help. I cried my eyes out for him and cried in anger at the vile, despicable people who are sitting in the Job Centre a few feet away doing absolutely nothing!!!
I cannot believe what is happening in this country.
This system is totally horrendous, obnoxious and despicable!”

https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-People-Vs-The-Government-DWP-and-Atos/430588573684275