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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  • Comment number 125.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 124.

    99. DSA

    I was made laid off the week my first child was born. This was back when we were first starting out and had just got on the property ladder. I found work after 2 weeks but wsnt getting paid for another 4, altho the bills were paid we didnt have any food. I applied for a crisis loan and we ate. It was the most undignified thing i have ever done in my life. Think before you comment mate.

  • rate this

    Comment number 123.

    I appreciate your reply. I'm not even a swing voter, I despair at the lack of a viable pragmatic opposition.

    G Brown was unjustifiably conceited, shameless, dishonest, leftist hack who never had a real job. Over a decade of borrowing & squandering billions (inc. pensions & stealth taxes) on "investments"/public spending. Even lied publicly about economic gains under Tories.

    Consequences today.

  • rate this

    Comment number 122.

    106. Sybarite
    ClaudeBalls @80: Back in the olden days we made things, and there were plenty of skilled manual jobs that paid a good wage, but did not require much school-learned knowledge.

    Those have gone. Everyday tech has exploded – even to the point of use in working in a warehouse. Education has had to achieve more basics than previously.

    Understood. So why have we not kept up?

  • rate this

    Comment number 121.

    You will see more and more people going to food banks up the income ladder as successive governments have spectacularly failed to deal with the strategic problem of living costs (housing, energy, food)

    You reap what you sow, and governance here has sowed the seeds of hades itself. We've gone over the edge and are falling - people just haven't realised yet. It's going to get a whole load worse.

  • rate this

    Comment number 120.

    I agree with those who say that when our own people don't have enough to eat, it is time to cut the spending on overseas aid. I would add that the next thing to cut would be the high salaries of top NHS executives that preside over high death rates in hospitals.

  • rate this

    Comment number 119.

    6,000 people is about 0.25% of the jobless total. The number has increased now because the previous government would not allow job centres to mention food banks. Labour are always quick to repeat their claims about reduced taxes for the wealthy, but they "forget" that the "millionaires" (inc. Milliband?) have already paid more into HMRC than they ever did under New Labour.

  • rate this

    Comment number 118.

    I am afraid it is only going to get much, much worse. All commentators are saying that the worst effects of the cuts are just about to arrive. Putting 100's of thousands on the dole in the vain hope that the private sector will step in is idiocy of the worst kind when no business has any confidence. The state should be here to help the country and it's people, not demonise those without hope.

  • rate this

    Comment number 117.

    It deeply upsets me that my comment on post 60 has been down rated.

    How can anyone seriously be opposed to providing practice help and assistance to the most vulnerable members of our society?

    If people actually tried volunteering at a food bank, maybe they'd see tings differently.

    Once you've met a family where the children haven't eaten for 3 days, it's difficult not to want to help them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 116.

    Mr Duncan Smith says he is proud of the fact: "that the individual who is in front of Job Centre staff can get access to everything they need to."

    He is proud that people need to go to charities to get fed??
    What 95% of individuals visiting a Jobcentre need is a job, that enables them to support their families without the help of charities, or handouts from the state.

  • rate this

    Comment number 115.

    I wonder how many of these people buy cigs and alcohol? I work in a supermarket near to estates where there are many jobless people. They come in and buy the above.

    Food is more important than cigs and alcohol anytime.

    If you cannot afford to kids, don't have them! Contraceptives are free if you go to the right places.

  • rate this

    Comment number 114.

    For those of you who make comments on the subject, I am unemployed and have a car, I need my own trasport to get to interviews because public transport is rubbish, I worked hard to get it and employers favour someone with own transport, why should I now sell and make myself more unemployable

  • rate this

    Comment number 113.

    Like many others have already said, how many of these people who are supposedly on the breadline not able to feed themselves have a £50 a month iPhone 5 contract, sky television, smoke, drink, gamble?? Amazing how many people who are on the breadline have the latest gadgets so please these people who claim the govt are cruel, get off your soap box!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 112.

    Only the blind or the seriously bigoted refuse to recognize there is something fundamentally wrong with this has been enormously rich for three centuries but always managed to ensure a substantial percentage of the population are poor or in many cases...destitute.
    Irrespective of the party in power.

  • rate this

    Comment number 111.

    you have government ministers living in flush homes, dont pay taxes, have companies, get yearly increases in there salaries, massive expenses claims, second homes paid by the tax payer, drove around in a limo, then you get the working class who work hard for there money pay there taxes then you have the unemployed and disabled looking for food handouts our country is finished thanks bilderburg

  • rate this

    Comment number 110.

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

    Disgraceful post.

    Most who turn-up at food banks are desperate for food and don't have a home to watch Sky TV in. We are not talking here about the ducking and diving wasters, these people are truly in poverty and comments like yours don't help the cause.

  • rate this

    Comment number 109.

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

    So Mr IDS are you also proud of the fact that it is your policies which have caused the problems in the first palce?. The policy is of course contempt and arrogance to everyone on working age benefits.

  • rate this

    Comment number 108.

    Conservative England = Very very sad England

  • rate this

    Comment number 107.

    Our politicians are asleep at the wheel - we're giving away £11 Billion each year in overseas 'Aid' & yet our population needs food banks!
    Get a grip Cameron & invest this £11 Billion creating jobs in the UK so people can have dignity & control their own destiny.

  • rate this

    Comment number 106.

    ClaudeBalls @80: Back in the olden days we made things, and there were plenty of skilled manual jobs that paid a good wage, but did not require much school-learned knowledge.

    Those have gone. Everyday tech has exploded – even to the point of use in working in a warehouse. Thus more people need to have a rage of numeracy/literacy skills. Education has had to achieve more basics. than previously.


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