A charity is calling for benefit payments to cover the true cost of living after a report revealed people at food banks have an average weekly income of £50 after paying rent.
The Trussell Trust, a food bank charity, commissioned the State of Hunger 2019 report, which was and conducted by Heriot-Watt University.
It found that over 94% of people at food banks are destitute, while three-quarters live in households affected by ill-health or disability.
Meanwhile the average weekly income of people at food banks is only £50 after paying rent, and almost one in five have no money coming in at all in the month before being referred for emergency food.
The report identified three reasons : issues with the benefits system, ill health and challenging life experiences, and a lack of local support.
Two-thirds of people at food banks were affected by problems with benefits in the last year.
The key issues include a reduction in the value of benefit payments, being turned down for disability benefits, having benefits stopped, and delays in payments such as the five week wait for Universal Credit.
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Experts have estimated that a £1 increase in the weekly value of main benefits could lead to 84 fewer food parcels a year in a typical local authority.
As a result, the Trussell Trust is calling for three key changes as a priority to protect people from hunger:
- End the five week wait for Universal Credit
- Benefit payments must cover the true cost of living
- Funding for councils to provide local crisis support should be ring-fenced and increased
Chief Executive Emma Revie said:"People are being locked into extreme poverty and pushed to the doors of food banks.
"Hunger in the UK isn't about food – it's about people not having enough money. People are trying to get by on £50 a week and that's just not enough for the essentials, let alone a decent standard of living."
She added: "Many of us are being left without enough money to cover the most basic costs. We cannot let this continue in our country.
"This can change – our benefits system could be the key to unlocking people from poverty if our government steps up and makes the changes needed. How we treat each other when life is hard speaks volumes about us as a nation. We can do better than this."
The majority of people referred to food banks also experienced a challenging life event, such as an eviction or household breakdown, in the year prior to using the food bank.
Such events may increase living costs and make it more difficult to maintain paid work or to successfully claim benefits.
The report found that particular groups of people are more likely to need a food bank. For example, single parents make up 22% of people at food banks, the majority of whom are women.
Almost three-quarters of people at food banks have a health issue or live with someone who does.
More than half of people at food banks live in households affected by a mental health problem, with anxiety and depression the most common.
Meanwhile a quarter of people live in households where someone has a long-term physical condition. One in six has a physical disability and one in 10 has a learning disability, or live with someone who does.
Ill health often increases living costs and may be a barrier to doing paid work.
One woman who was referred to a food bank, Amanda, explained to researchers that £130 of her £138 fortnightly benefit payment for a health condition goes to paying arrears, leaving her with only £8.
She said: "If I don't pay my bills, then I'll get the house taken off me. After paying arrears, I've got £8 a fortnight and that's to pay for gas, electRead More – Source