Food banks used by thousands of jobless, figures show


Many also need IT help to apply for benefits as the system moves online

Thousands of welfare claimants are being referred to food banks by Job Centre staff over concerns they have not got enough money to eat, the BBC has learned.

Figures obtained by the BBC suggest about 6,000 people have been given vouchers for emergency food parcels by benefits officials in the last year.

The government says Job Centre staff are responding to people's needs.

But Labour says the figures show more people are suffering hardship.

The food banks are operated by the Trussell Trust, which has more than 325 of them in the UK. They provide at least three days' worth of nutritionally-balanced food for local people in crisis.

In all but exceptional cases, Trussell Trust food banks will only issue a food parcel to someone with a voucher from an accredited agency. Claimants are limited to emergency aid on three occasions.

Since October 2011 Job Centres have been able to issue vouchers for clients to access help at registered food charities.

The trust says the number of people being sent to them from unemployment officers has doubled in the last few months.

"We have had a lot through from Job Centres where very heavy sanctions have been imposed upon them and they have not been able to feed themselves," says Roslyn McVeigh, who manages two food banks near Glasgow.

Foodbank volunteer Graham Herbert with a food box Foodbanks are staffed by volunteers who provide emergency food for people experiencing hardship

Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith said directing people to food banks was a short-term method of alleviating their financial problems.

"I've said to Job Centres, sort their problem out. If it is a case of food banks, Job Centres are meant to help passport people through to that so they can get them stable, so they can deal with their problems."

Mr Duncan Smith says he is proud of the fact that his government agreed that Job Centre staff could refer people to food banks.

"What would you prefer? Under the last government, Job Centre staff were not allowed to talk about it. My concern is that the individual who is in front of Job Centre staff can get access to everything they need to."

Values criticised

However, the figures are likely to be embarrassing for the government, which is introducing major reforms to the benefits system.

Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Liam Byrne says the revelation demonstrates that even welfare officials recognise the hardship being caused.

"Instead of sending people to jobs, our job centres are sending people to food banks.

"Yet instead of offering extra help, this Tory-led government is cutting taxes for millionaires. That tells you everything you need to know about this government's values."

In the last 12 months, the number of food parcels issued by Trussell Trust centres overall has reached almost 300,000 - more than double the year before.

Almost half of those being referred to the Trust by various agencies say a problem with benefits is the cause of the emergency.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 45.

    It would be interesting to see how many of these people spend money on alcohol and cigarettes whilst obtaining food from these banks.
    Very few. Unless you have proof to the contrary. These people were sent there by Job Centers to alleviate financial problems they have, i.e. they have no money. Don't know what made you so callous but get over it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 44.

    9. own-yourself
    "All the blame will go to the Torries for the mythical overall cuts they are making. "

    Mythical? Someone doesn't live in the real world! God forbid you ever find yourself needing to beg for handouts at a food bank :(

  • rate this

    Comment number 43.

    Food banks have been around for a long time, Labour hid their existence. At Xmas we help providing food parcels and toys for kids and most people are grateful but some people were turning up for food parcels in taxi's (but no money for food??) and some had bought drugs for themselves rather than food and gifts for their kids! Some (not all) people take advantage even when they don't need the help!

  • rate this

    Comment number 42.

    What are regarded as " The poor " are generally those who do not work, do not wish to work and make no attempt to find work. They waste the money that should be going to the disabled , handicapped and those in real need. The number of satellite dishes in our so called poor areas says it all.

  • Comment number 41.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 40.

    Rather than making sweeping generalisations regarding those that use the services of foodbank charities. One issue that forces people to use these services, is the length of time of the bureaucratic process where people have to wait without any support while the wheels turn, leaving them no alternative.
    We do have to ensure that people have legitimate claims, but does it have to take so long?

  • rate this

    Comment number 39.

    It is a matter of national embarassment that we need food banks when we have a welfare system which we pay for.

    Due to ineptitude and the emergence of a political class who have no experience of normal life. Our welfare system has become unmanagebale, due to a succession of politicians using it for politicial ends. It is purposefully hard to claim benefits, it often takes months to process.

  • rate this

    Comment number 38.

    Only a politician could claim they are proud in an interview about people not having enough food to eat in a supposedly civilized society.

    How about to become an MP they need to do a year on welfare, a year on minimum wage etc?

  • rate this

    Comment number 37.

    I would be interested to know how many of these people using food banks, smoke and drink!

  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    Perhaps we should redirect some of our foreign aid to domestic welfare claimants who will actually spend the money on food, as opposed to Saville Row suits suitable for African climates, personal jets, and state of the art weaponry. Or, if India and China have foreign aid programmes, we could beg them for help.

  • rate this

    Comment number 35.

    The only reason my local primary schoolchildren in a deprived London are not suffering mass starvation is because the Local Labour Councils is supplying free meals to ALL - Sadly the secondary school is not so lucky

  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    26 Indication..... silly comment that is not how foodbanks work, must people who come to ours are working people. You cant just walk in and get a handout

  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    This is shocking!

    Why is this government looking after everyone but the hard working (or people who WANT the opportunity to be hard working) people of this country?

    We have tax cuts for the rich, uncontrolled immigration, billions of taxpayers money spent on aid and the EU, but us normal folk are getting shafted into poverty.

    All in it together? My ar*e!

  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    @9 I disagree on one point. Debt will not double as we shall have the IMF in within 12 months of a Milliband/Balls government. The real cuts will then commence. Actually it's not a bad scenario. UK governments haven't been able to control expenditure so the IMF will have to do so as in the 1970's. Thankfully I can remember 23% inflation and the IMF arriving vividly.

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    What happened to the whole "end poverty" thing? Clearly not a single leader listened and are now putting more people into poverty than ever before.

  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    26. Indication
    Food banks are really good. Since their introduction I've been able to save money on food and use the savings to upgrade my Sky TV package.
    Maybe you should have spent it on upgrading your IQ...

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    Today I have had to take a day off work (and lose a day's pay) to look after my 6 year old son who has a terrible cold, as do I. The temperature in our house is 7 degrees centigrade because we can't afford oil for our boiler. We are just scraping by, but how long before more of us are going to have to rely on foodbanks? Our "problem", Mr Duncan Smith, is you and your callous government.

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    The end of the Tory Party is nigh ...make sure it happens at the next election ....

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    Gordon Brown made a huge mistake when he sold the gold; obviously he was putting all his faith in fiat money, and we all know where that takes us! However, I truly believe he did it with good intentions. Cameron and Osborne however, are much sinister. They serve their Tory peers, not the country. Any excuse to roll back the welfare state and crush rising power in the middle classes will be done.

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    Food banks are really good. Since their introduction I've been able to save money on food and use the savings to upgrade my Sky TV package.


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