Record 1.6m food bank parcels given to people in past year as the Trussell Trust calls for end to Universal Credit five week wait

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Number of food parcels given out across UK soars 73% in five years*

New data released today shows April 2018 to March 2019 to be the busiest year for food banks in the Trussell Trust’s network since the charity opened. During the past year, 1,583,668 three-day emergency food supplies were given to people in crisis in the UK; More than half a million of these (577,618) went to children. This is an 18.8% increase on the previous year.

The main reasons for people needing emergency food are benefits consistently not covering the cost of living (33%), and delays or changes to benefits being paid.**

Universal Credit is not the only benefit payment people referred to food banks have experienced problems with, but issues with moving onto the new system are a key driver of increasing need. Almost half (49%) of food bank referrals made due to a delay in benefits being paid in UK were linked to Universal Credit.***

From this data, and other insights from food banks in the Trussell Trust’s network, the charity believes ending the five week for a first Universal Credit payment should be the Government’s first priority to help create a future without food banks.

The Trussell Trust’s chief executive Emma Revie said:

“What we are seeing year-upon-year is more and more people struggling to eat because they simply cannot afford food. This is not right.

“Enough is enough. We know this situation can be fixed – that’s why we’re campaigning to create a future where no one needs a food bank. Our benefits system is supposed to protect us all from being swept into poverty. Universal Credit should be part of the solution but currently the five week wait is leaving many without enough money to cover the basics. As a priority, we’re urging the government to end the wait for Universal Credit to ease the pressure on thousands of households.  

“Ultimately, it’s unacceptable that anyone should have to use a food bank in the first place. No charity can replace the dignity of having financial security. That’s why in the long-term, we’re urging the Government to ensure benefit payments reflect the true cost of living and work is secure, paying the real Living Wage, to help ensure we are all anchored from poverty.”

Shirley, who had to use a food bank herself and now volunteers for food bank in the Trussell Trust, said:

“No one should need to ever use a food bank but sometimes things happen to people that are completely out of their control like an illness, disability, family breakdown or the loss of a job.

 “I was thrown into an unknown world. I didn’t have any money for three months while waiting for Universal Credit. I couldn’t pay my rent and I had to work out whether to eat in the morning or the afternoon because I didn’t have enough money for the basics.

“The food bank got me back on my feet and offered me hope that things would get better. I’m a great believer in giving back and that’s why I volunteer my time at Southwark Foodbank. People shouldn’t feel embarrassed if they’re forced to use a food bank – they are there to help you.”



Contact The Trussell Trust Press Office at 020 3137 3699 or [email protected]

Notes to Editor:

The Trussell Trust’s #5WeeksTooLong campaign is calling for an end to the 5+ week wait for Universal Credit.

The Trussell Trust’s statistics:

  • ‘Emergency food parcel’: three days’ emergency food for one person. These statistics are a measure of volume rather than unique individuals. Recent analysis shows on average people need around two food bank referrals in a year. More information about the way this data is gathered and what it can and can’t show here.
  • Between 1st April 2018 and 31st March 2019, food banks in The Trussell Trust’s network provided 1,583,668 emergency supplies to people in crisis. 577,618 of these supplies went to children.
  • This is an 18.8% increase on the previous year, when 1,332,952 emergency supplies went to people in crisis; 484,026 of these went to children.
  • Trussell Trust figures cannot be used to fully explain the scale of food bank use across the UK, because figures relate to food banks in the network and not to the hundreds of independent food banks. There are more than 1,200 food bank centres in the Trussell Trust’s network across the UK – research from the Independent Food Aid Network shows there are at least 805 independent food banks, so the Trussell Trust network accounts for roughly two-thirds of all emergency food banks.
  • The Independent Food Aid Network and A Menu for Change recently published data on the number of emergency food parcels distributed by independent food banks in Scotland which almost doubles the scale shown by figures from the Trussell Trust network – more detail here.

* Number of food bank supplies increased by 73.4% in five years in UK:

2013/14 2014/15 2015/16 2016/17 2017/18 2018/19
UK TOTAL for food parcels distributed:    913,138    1,084,604    1,109,309    1,182,954    1,332,952    1,583,668
% increase on previous year 18.8% 2.3% 6.6% 12.7% 18.8%

**Main reasons for referral between April 2018 – March 2019:

  • 33.1% due to low income; our electronic referral data suggests over 80% of these referrals were for people receiving benefits and not earning
  • 20.3% due to delays in benefits being paid
  • 17.3% due to changes in benefits

***The Trussell Trust can analyse detailed information about the type of benefit payments people at food banks experience using data gathered from electronic food bank referrals. Electronic referrals are completed by referral agencies in the same way as traditional paper vouchers, and can collect more information about the reason behind the referral.

Additional information about the type of electronic referral due to a ‘benefit delay’ includes waiting for a first payment, waiting for a new claim to be awarded and interrupted payments. Between April 2018 and March 2019, 49% of electronic food bank referrals made due to a delay in benefits being paid were linked to Universal Credit.

About The Trussell Trust:

  • The Trussell Trust is an anti-poverty charity that supports a network of more than 1,200 food bank centres across the UK.
  • It takes more than food to end hunger. The Trussell Trust therefore does three things: supports its network to provide emergency food to people referred; helps food banks to provide on-site additional help or signpost people to relevant local charities to resolve the cause of  referral; and brings together the experiences of hundreds of communities on the front line to challenge the structural issues that lock people in poverty, and campaign for long-term change so we can see a future without the need for food banks.
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