Analysis: Demand for food banks remains high around the country leading up to Christmas

We find examples from December of increasing food bank use. Is this the news we can expect of a government fully committed to assaulting poverty?

Yesterday – the last day before Parliament closes for Christmas – the government pushed out 36 statements containing varying degrees of bad news, from badgers to extremists, fracking to police funding.

One big piece of news – or at least, a piece of news that should be big – is that the removal of the spare room subsidy, which everyone else calls the Bedroom Tax, has resulted in hardship for those affected. Nearly half have had to cut back on essential purchases such as food.

The report, ordered by the Government, found that three quarters of people affected by the changes often found too much month at the end of their money. This was shockingly highlighted earlier in the month when researchers from Manchester University found children showing signs of distress when their parents faced pressure and material hardship as a result of benefit cuts.

It’s no wonder the latest report was buried in the news with a huge number of other announcements. It contradicts the message, hotly pursued by the government, that a rise in employment is having a positive effect on poverty and hardship, boosting a key trope: work pays.

Indeed just under a fortnight ago, a new report from the All Party Parliamentary Group for Hunger published findings showing how foodbank usage had tailed off.

In response, an official spokesman said Ministers would consider the Parliamentary report, adding “This Government is committed to an all-out assault on poverty … Work is the best route and with a stronger economy, we have record numbers in work.”

However, as Frank Field MP, who commissioned the report, pointed out: “We must stress that a levelling off in some areas, although most welcome, is a huge distance from abolishing hunger.” The report finds that an ease in demand could be to do with welfare changes, sanctions for wrong claims, and cuts to the numbers of vouchers handed claimants. Certainly nothing to cheer about.

So close to Christmas, a report hurriedly published showing how people affected by the spare room subsidy are increasingly likely to go without food, combined with a recent report that shows a cut to the number of people being handed vouchers for food bank claims, should make us despair at what this government is doing (or not doing) on tackling poverty.

Even if claimants aren’t being connected to the correct services, food banks around the country are still braced for record demand as we enter the holiday period:

  • December foodbank usage up by 77% in Glasgow (Source)
  • A Croydon food bank is buckling under the pressure of increased demand and could be forced to close, its founder has warned – removing a lifeline for hundreds of struggling families in the borough. (Source)
  • Worcester Foodbank, based in Carden Close, near City Walls Road, has asked for donation of baby food including SMA milk and dog food. (Source)
  • Tayside and Fife foodbanks are braced for a huge spike in demand this Christmas, as families increasingly struggle with the cost of the festive season. (Source)
  • A food bank in Henley has seen an increase in demand. The Light House has organised the delivery of 115 food bags to needy residents this Christmas. Families of four people or fewer receive two bags and families of five or more receive four bags. (Source)
  • Local officials say they continue to see a demand for food bank assistance within Ross County as poverty data from a national survey indicates the need for help across the state is trending up since the end of the Great Recession (Source)
  • Low income families among those seeking help at Kingston foodbank as demand remains high (Source)
  • Lacombe Community Food Bank sees increase in demand (Source)
  • Reading food bank in need of help and food during Christmas (Source)
  • Stevenage food bank sees rise in number of users in the run-up to Christmas (Source)
  • Bonnie Pedersen, volunteer president of the Lewis County Food Bank Coalition, said the food banks are busiest beginning about two weeks before Thanksgiving through the end of December with an increase in both clients and donations. (Source)
  • A Sleaford food bank is appealing for donations to keep up with demand after almost 30 hard-up households turned to them for Christmas dinner last year. (Source)

These are all examples from December. Is this the news we can expect of a government fully committed to assaulting poverty?

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