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 1045.

    Highest rated comment has "been removed for consideration." What does that say?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1044.

    Wonder how long it will be before workhouses re-open, people evicted because of the evil bedroom tax, and man against man. Those self righteous folk that go on about benefit claimants well done you have fought man against man while the rich got richer and when your job goes and you find yourself on the dole you will be gutted to find the safety net we once had is gone!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1043.

    Comment number 980. TheTakeleySocialist
    26TH MARCH 2013 - 16:55
    Seacrh for "Capitalism a Love story" by Michael Moore on YouTube.

    On second thoughts, don't bother !

  • rate this

    Comment number 1042.

    Wonder how long it will take before the government realises it can incorporate the volunteer numbers to boost the employment figures?
    This sad state has nothing to do with the economy its about fundamental humanity!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1041.

    I’ve read down the comments – will those of those who denigrate those who are on benefits please now live on £53 to £73 per week, and report back to us after a year of doing so how wonderful their life has been during that time, please? No?

    How interesting...

    Well done to 971 Webboffin – I wish you luck with your future, you deserve a good one.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1040.

    I will admit to a profound dismay that, here in Britain, we have a need for foodbanks to offer assistance. Whilst I applaud those who give their time to running them (and, those who support them by giving food, etc), I find it extraordinary that we can possibly be in this position.

    But folks, this is what neoliberalism wants. Profit for the rich, and the cost paid for by everyone else.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1039.

    Eat the rich!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1038.

    This is one way to stop a HYS.

    So IDS wants the Job Centre staff to give the unemployed "access to everything they need to." How about access to a job? I know I got one via the job centre in 1996 after a 3.5 year period of unemployment but they have been of little help since.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1037.

    What is needed is to get rid of the benefit cheats.

    No don't get me wrong, I am talking the 650 MPs that take huge sums of taxpayers money in expenses without tax and NI, then whinge and moan how low their salary is.
    Well how about you earn £90k per year, full tax and NI, net wage at 2013/14 rate £59,163.36 and no expenses, that's only £19.5 million in revenue - tax avoidance anyone.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1036.

    In October 1991 I was made redundant, my daughter was 3 days old. A week before Christmas a friend of ours turned up with 3 bags of shopping. I have never forgot that day and reciprocate the gesture to any friend/colleague in need whenever a time arises, perhaps if more people did similar the world would be a better place.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1035.

    This is obviuosly the Governments fault. This is not what could be called "relative poverty" this "absolute poverty" of the worst, most serious, and basic kind which has only come to be since this omnishambles govt. took power. Food and shelter are the very most basics, if they can't make sure the welfare state protects these they are seriously incompatent, or just plain morally vile.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1034.

    Congratulations Dryad1313 (@1032).

    You have passed the IT proficiency test. It disappeared so that the BBC can identify who the technophobes are. ;-)

  • rate this

    Comment number 1033.

    No they cant control interest rates its the BofE job. When governemnts could they messed it up. I assume you miss the double digit rates of the past?
    In regards to the rest you've ignored what I said. I said the government can throw money at those problems but thats what Labour did and it caused far more issues. From all your posts though your clearly not here for a debate

  • rate this

    Comment number 1032.

    Interesting to see this page has disappeared from the BBC News website, including the HYS page. An order from ex-tory MP Chris Patten, chairman of the BBC Trust, by any chance?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1031.

    @1025 TheBloke

    'I know of several families...'

    So you know all their medical conditions, personal finances, how much they are claiming and what benefits they receive do you? If you do not know these then how can you judge.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1030.

    @1027. where am I

    one response to your points, how is that down to the government? Cant control prices or inflation or interest rates.
    are you kidding? Can't control interest rates, really? Can't control cuts to welfare? Can't control what the public sector gets? Can't control the way unions are getting shortchanged? Can't control privatisation?

    they are more interested in serving the 1%

  • rate this

    Comment number 1029.

    @1025. The Bloke

    I know of several families with more than 3, up to 8, kids. No one works or intends to. They're not 'cheating the system' in any legal sense. But they are leaching off it. Yet the system does fail many who generally need it.
    and raising 8 kids isn't 'work'? What planet are you on?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1028.

    Does anybody on HyS really believe we can abolish poverty? Like Gordon Brown abolished Boom and Bust? There will always be socially inadequate, intellectually incompetent, mentally unbalanced and addicted people as well as the simply unlucky, amongst us. We sustain lifestyle welfarism while denying meaningful support to those that, temporarily, find themselves in need of a hand.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1027.

    I have one response to your points, how is that down to the government? Cant control prices or inflation or interest rates.

    Government can try to help the others but only by spending a lot of money and we dont have it. Labour threw money at those problems and managed nothing but a hike in prices and a bloated housing market and both are back to haunt us.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1026.

    @1016. where am I

    How exectly has the government "attacked" workers?
    what sort of payrises are the workers seeing?

    how do they compare to inflation?

    how fast is the cost of living rising?

    what rates are available on savings accounts, how do they compare to inflation?

    what has happened to the benefits safety net should the worker lose his job?

    how has the public sector fared?


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