Disability, Health & Hunger

Our Head of External Affairs Garry Lemon shares insights from new report into disability & health conditions at foodbanks

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We’re committed to ending the need for foodbanks in the UK and moving towards a future where nobody is left with no money and nowhere else to turn. But how do we get there from here, a country where in the last year almost 1.2 million three day emergency food supplies were given to people by foodbanks in our network?

To understand exactly what leaves people needing a foodbank and what solutions could lead to long-term change, we’ve undertaken several pieces of cutting-edge research into UK foodbank use. One of the most striking findings from this research throughout the last two years is as unambiguous as it is concerning; people dealing with a disability or health condition are far more likely to receive emergency food from a foodbank.

This report builds on those findings, providing a new level of detail about that link between having a physical or mental health condition and being more at risk of needing a foodbank referral.

People at foodbanks with ill-health or a disability often have multiple and long-term conditions, and are facing an array of issues, from changes in benefit payments and benefit cuts, to problems with assessments and long delays. Mental ill-health is one of the biggest concerns foodbanks reported; almost a quarter of respondents noted a significant increase in the number of people referred whilst experiencing mental health problems in the last twelve months.  At the same time, foodbanks describe a severe lack of accessible welfare advice and non-financial or emotional support for people affected.

This cannot continue. These findings make it clear that foodbanks in our network are doing all they can to provide additional support – offering training for volunteers, providing advice and support within the foodbank centre itself and developing partnerships with other local agencies to ensure people can access available support. But foodbanks are an emergency response to crisis. A short-term stop-gap. They cannot, and they should not, provide the long-term targeted support and resources that are needed on the ground.

We’ll continue to share evidence about the issues people at foodbanks face and what works to inform effective policy solutions, and we hope the Government’s commitments as part of the ‘Improving Lives’ strategy will deliver much-needed change to combat the issues identified by foodbanks. The findings in the following pages represent a vital first step – but to prevent people with health conditions needing foodbanks in the future, what matters next is where as a nation we chose to go from here.