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.

Mark Easton Article written by Mark Easton Mark Easton Home editor

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  • rate this

    Comment number 105.


    So you don't recognise poverty unless you see it being interviewed by Bob Geldof on the idiot box?

    I despair of this country sometimes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 104.

    I would rather 5 scroungers manage to cheat the system if it means the one child who really needs the help doesn't go hungry.

    I'm proud to live in a country where we have a social safety net to look after the poor and vulnerable.

    Welfare/immigration is not high on the list of things that need fixing. IT IS high on the list of things politicians campaign on (wrongly).
    GO & DC should be ashamed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 103.

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

    I can see the day dawning when this country will have corpses lying in the street.Cause of death starvation. And this government the perpetrator.
    Why are we giving £10Bn in overseas aid when our own people are going hungry?
    This is government of the madhouse at work.

  • rate this

    Comment number 102.

    I am involved in a Foodbank. It breaks my heart to see the circumstances in which people have to live. Vouchers are issued by professionals who know the families’ circumstances before we ever see them. Even if there are some who could find a way to abuse the system I’d rather help one skiver than turn ninety nine in genuine need away. Volunteer for your local Foodbank and see for yourself.

  • rate this

    Comment number 101.

    I can't believe there hasn't been an outcry by the people of this country about Cyprus....banks blatantly robbing the people because they got into's not the country that was bankrupt's the banks...same in all the countries in trouble,population all desperate which is how THEY want you...take note before it comes here

  • rate this

    Comment number 100.

    The PM thinks that it is great to see people providing charitable social care in the form of food banks as he has stated many times when interviewed. Completely missing the point. We should not need food banks in the UK in 2013.
    Something is very wrong with our society for this to have happened.

  • rate this

    Comment number 99.

    I wonder how many use food banks so that they can spend more on cigarettes and booze?
    Quite a lot I would think.
    A study of how many unemployed spend a lot of time and benefits in pubs would be useful.

  • rate this

    Comment number 98.

    78. TheMudplugger Low IQs? Perhaps you may learn more of the real world if you got out more and stop reading papers like the Sun whose take on the poor is a picture of Frank Gallagher, 2013 and we have a new scapegoat the poor,unemployed and low paid who need benefits to survive, used to be the Jews, Blacks and gays but that's not PC so lets bash another group.

  • rate this

    Comment number 97.

    The insidious and frightening thing is that IDS knows what he is talking about. He has spent years investigating and analysing the welfare system and its users.

    When this hardship occurs it is not by accident, it is by design. Designed by someone who has dedicated his career to orchestrating it.

    We have people living on charity because someone thinks that is the right way to deal with them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 96.

    Even when one is fulfilling all the obligations & actually receive benefits, the pittance is barely enough to survive on... my church has stepped in with weekly food parcels which I find outrageous: what on earth do we pay tax for (when working & on all the stuff that's taxed even if you are not) when the state so fails in its duty of care that people have to receive charity to survive?

  • rate this

    Comment number 95.

    The fact that some citizens of the UK need to effectively beg for food is a national disgrace! This is the 21st century we're living in, not the 18th and people should not be in this circumstance in this country. These are, for the most part, people with families to feed and they should not be put in this situation. This government, and previous ones, have a lot to answer for.

  • rate this

    Comment number 94.

    Very concerning, but it doesn't day how many of these people still drink/smoke/ have 3 old cars/ mobile phones or have sky telly

  • rate this

    Comment number 93.

    Wonder how many going to a food bank also smoke, drink, have mobile phones and Sky TV.

    Not a heartless post, a factual post.

    Someone in Africa suffering true starvation would have a word or two to say about this issue.

  • rate this

    Comment number 92.

    This is a big indication the the rich are being protected by Cameron while the rest of us can go to hell.

    Food banks in the 21st Century? Only under self-serving career Politicians protecting their own kind can this be happening.

  • rate this

    Comment number 91.

    Perhaps, opposed to talking about it, the govt. should pull out their thumb and do something. If more and more people are having to go to food banks for emergency food, isn't that a clear indicator that something is going wrong? How about restrict immigration and stop sending money over seas, spend it on our own people and give them jobs. Sod "diversity" if our own people suffer for it!

  • rate this

    Comment number 90.

    In 1991 I remember tory ex-chancellor Norman Lamont saying "unemployment was a price worth paying". Seems like this version of tory government think the same way. In order for there to be rich people, there has to be poor people, and that's something Camermoron DOES understand.

  • rate this

    Comment number 89.

    17 Minutes ago
    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...
    If you did the sums the original poster is making up a story. 3 food parcels doesn't = 1 sky package.
    Tabloid reporting?? Don't get wound up!

  • rate this

    Comment number 88.

    Food banks are a waste of time and effort. We have spend centuries perfecting a universal exchange mechanism - money - so if you want to help the impoverished, donate money not goods. Much of the stuff going to food banks is probably not liked by the recipients. Giving them money would allow them to buy what they value, and to retain self respect. So have cash collection points for donations.

  • rate this

    Comment number 87.

    This all reminds me of 1979, miserable. Few if any of the political parties do anything but fudge solutions and only make things worse for others and better for the select inside few. The biggest con in history in ongoing with no sign of redress and we're all being robbed blind to it. This is my Winter of Discontent II. We need change, starting with the return of the social contract.

  • rate this

    Comment number 86.

    these banks are the only banks that deserve public money for a bailout . it is a sign of tory doctrine in action that people have to use them or starve, and this is britain, i fear for public order in the summer .


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