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State of Hunger: It’s not right that growing numbers of migrants without access to benefits are being forced to turn to food banks 

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By Rosie Sourbut, public affairs assistant at the Trussell Trust

Last week, the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Ending the Need for Food Banks ran a joint event with the APPG on Immigration Law and Policy.

The groups  discussed the links between destitution, food bank use and No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF)  which is when migrants are not allowed to access the benefits system.   (more…)

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Together for change with the Sodexo Stop Hunger Foundation

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By Crispin Shingler, corporate partnerships manager at the Trussell Trust

Our vision is for a UK without the need for food banks.

We say this because it’s not right that anyone can’t afford their own food. That’s why we’re working towards a just, compassionate future, where no one should have to use a food bank to get by.

Here at the Trussell Trust, we are proud to continue to partner with Sodexo through its Stop Hunger Foundation, which believes quality of life begins when basic needs are met.

Since 2017 we have been sharing similar principles and working together to support food banks in the Trussell Trust network to help people and families during times of financial crisis.

We are thrilled by the enthusiasm Sodexo has shown towards our Together for Change strategy and belief in our vision.

With support from corporate partners such as Sodexo, we will be working towards helping food banks actively reduce the need for emergency food in their communities.

In 2021, with its donation of £70,000, Sodexo is supporting our new national telephone helpline, Help through Hardship, and will continue to support our core offer of support to the food bank network.

Before the pandemic, people needing a food bank’s support were referred by a range of professionals including teachers, health care and social workers and staff at advice centres such as Citizens Advice.

After being issued with a food bank referral voucher, people then collected emergency food supplies from their local food bank.

During lockdown, many referral partners stopped operating face-to-face services.

It was important therefore, to ensure that referrals to food banks could still be accessed at a time when many referral agencies had reduced services in a way that did not require referral partners, or people needing a food bank’s support, to leave their homes.

This was made possible through a partnership with Citizens Advice (England & Wales) by setting up a new national telephone helpline, Help through Hardship, in April 2020.

More than 21,000 people have accessed the helpline for support to increase their incomes by ensuring they are receiving the benefits they are entitled to.  You can find out more how our Together for Change strategy is having an impact here.

The ongoing support from Sodexo has allowed the Trussell Trust to remain flexible and agile in continuing to support the food bank network to best help people and families in their communities in financial crisis.

This includes our operational teams providing bespoke one to one support to food banks and food banks in the network having access and support to a range of unique cloud-based systems.

The Trussell Trust also works with academics and researchers to understand the root causes of food bank referrals so we can then work with policy makers to push for changes that would better protect people from needing a food bank.

Sodexo employees make up the heart of the Stop Hunger Foundation and are the main force behind both their fundraising and volunteering efforts.  We are very much looking forward to seeing them support food banks in our network by helping to encourage customers offer food donations at the Summer Food Collection hosted by Tesco between 15 and 17 July.

Emma Revie, Chief Executive of the Trussell Trust, said: “It’s not right that any of us are forced to a charity for food but food banks in our network have experienced record need during the pandemic.

“We are delighted the Sodexo Stop Hunger Foundation is supporting us in 2021 as we work towards our vision to end the need for food banks in the UK.  Generous support like this will be essential in helping to ensure food banks in our network are best equipped with the necessary tools to tackle poverty in their communities and Sodexo’s support with Help through Hardship will be central in providing this.”

Gareth John, Head of Trustees at the Sodexo Stop Hunger Foundation, said: “We are pleased to be supporting Help through Hardship, as our aim at the Sodexo Stop Hunger Foundation is to tackle hunger, malnutrition and food security by supporting those most vulnerable in society. The work of Trussell Trust is essential in tackling the root causes of poverty, so our partnership is key in working towards this.”

We’re excited to have the continued support of Sodexo and together in partnership we’re making change happen to end the need for food banks in the UK.

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The State of Hunger: It’s not right that disabled people are being forced to turn to food banks

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By Thomas Weekes, research manager at the Trussell Trust

This State of Hunger blog series digs into the reasons why people are forced to turn to food banks for support. Today we look at the link between disability and food bank use

More than six in ten (62%) working-age people referred to food banks in early 2020 were disabled.

That alone is shocking, but when you understand that it is more than three times the rate in the general population it is damning. (more…)

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The five-week wait for Universal Credit is not fit for purpose in the private rented sector

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A blog post by
Jake McKey
Policy & Public Affairs Officer

As part of its campaign to reform Universal Credit, the National Landlords Association (NLA) is now working with the Trussell Trust to end the five-week wait.

Together, we’re issuing a stark warning to the Government that the policy is an unnecessary feature of a system pushing more and more families into debt and hunger, further damaging their chances of having a stable tenancy in the private rented sector (PRS).

Figures from the NLA highlight that arrears and debt are becoming part of the grim reality of private renting for Universal Credit tenants as 86 percent of landlords letting to tenants on Universal Credit experienced rent arrears in the last 12 months.

Not only is the frequency of rent arrears high, but our research has found that with such a high incidence, the average amount of rent arrears for tenants has progressively increased.

The average amount owed is now £2,105, but this increases dramatically for Universal Credit claimants, to £3,842.

When contrasted with the latest HomeLet rental index, which found the average UK rent now stands at £941, this means that Universal Credit tenants now owe on average over 4 months’ worth of rent arrears.

This far surpasses the minimum 2-month arrears for which tenants could be evicted under a section 8 notice for breach of contract. This is a situation in need of urgent change.

But the five-week wait and arrears are not the only factors for many landlords in the private rented sector.

Additional administrative failures and delays within the system compound the already lengthy five week wait, with the NLA having found some members dealing with tenants who have had to wait up to 12 weeks to receive payment.

In circumstances such as this, many claimants have no choice but to take out advances in order to support themselves, which leaves both landlords and tenants with no choice but to take on additional debt in order to cover their costs, resulting in a situation that works for no one.

Unsurprisingly, the resulting and enduring difficulties faced by both landlords and tenants have created a particularly negative culture change in the sector towards tenants receiving benefits.

With recent NLA research finding that only two in ten landlords would house tenants on Universal Credit, down from 35 percent in early 2013, and debt and poverty continuing a downward trajectory, the Government must take decisive action.

As well as the negative impact in a business sense, the five week wait and growing debt has the tangible human consequence of increased food bank usage and hunger.

Trussell Trust research shows a 52 percent average increase in food bank use in areas that have had Universal Credit for 12 months compared to 13percent in areas that have not. If hunger is to be ended in the UK, families must have enough money year-round and a vital component of this is resolving the longstanding issues within Universal Credit.

Together with the Trussell Trust, we’re calling on the Government to take action to create a system that works for tenants and landlords, including:

Ending the freeze on Housing Benefit rates. The lack of availability of social housing has meant many of the most vulnerable in society are seeking homes in the private rented sector, leaving them vulnerable to rising market rents with the level of benefits paid for housing frozen since 2016. This longstanding freeze has meant the housing element of Universal Credit is simply insufficient for many tenants to cover their rent, eating into costs for other essentials.

Tackling both intentional and unintentional delays and gaps in benefits. Alongside the built-in five-week wait, many administrative delays with processing claims further compound families’ ability to afford essentials. This has still not been treated as a priority by the Government and an inquiry into the internal workings of Universal Credit needs to be made in order to prevent further administrative delay.

This is why the NLA is joining the Trussell Trust and more than 40 other leading charities and organisations in supporting the #5WeeksTooLong campaign.

If the Government is serious about making Universal Credit a success and reversing the continuing negative trends born of poor policymaking and implementation, then it needs to take action and provide immediate relief for thousands of people and families across the UK by ending the five week wait for a first Universal Credit payment, the main driver of increased hunger and foodbank usage.

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Universal Credit: “It’s been a nightmare – I’m £2,000 in debt. I can’t get any more loans.”

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A blog post by
Emma Revie
Chief Executive  

Recently, the Trussell Trust partnered with single-parent charity Gingerbread as part of the #5WeeksTooLong campaign.

This campaign has been highlighting the changes Universal Credit needs to ensure proper support is in place for families with children.

The Government needs to fix issues with Universal Credit. There are a number of problems that must be addressed – the first priority must be to end the wait for a first benefit payment.

We’ve spoken to two mums working with Gingerbread to highlight the issues single parents can face – both are in work but need some support from our benefits system to keep their families afloat.

Instead, the problems they’ve encountered with Universal Credit have left them struggling to keep their heads above water.

Ayo, 29, London

Ayo is a single mum-of-one who works full-time in communications. When she came off maternity leave she had to apply for Universal Credit to help with childcare costs.

“I have to cover nursey fees which must be paid in advance and ended up paying three months fees without and being reimbursed by universal credit

“There were so many human errors. I was even told I wasn’t entitled to the childcare element of universal credit.

“After I eventually got a local MP involved, they addressed it, but I had endured several stressful calls – had to use food banks and was going to friend’s homes for food

“I kept being told staff were too busy to deal with my case and felt completely stressed out and unsupported. I have worked since I was young and paid my taxes which I thought was used to help the people who need it in society.

“Why should I pay taxes when I am not entitled to the help they’re meant to provide for people like me?”

Since Ayo’s case was looked into she gets a contribution of just £100 a month towards nursery fees.

“Because I make a fairly good wage I cannot be helped by any other charities, but nursery fees and rent costs are so high I have been left without money to afford food – I’ve been skipping breakfast and dinner so my daughter can eat. I’ve been in my overdraft and getting in debt.

“It’s pulled my confidence down. I feel scruffy at work as I cannot afford to keep up my maintenance.”

Shavishta, 26, Dorset

Shavishta is a single mum to a 4-year-old. Last November she got part-time work. The change meant she had to apply for Universal Credit.

Moving from the old benefits system to the new means she is left with far less than before –  just £120 a month after rent is paid.

In March she lost her job but she has been studying a science degree and is due to start work next week.

“I feel hopeless and have been put on anxiety medication. I’ve been surviving off just £120 a month, but then having to cover nursery too. It’s been a nightmare – I’m £2,000 in debt. I can’t get any more loans.

“When I first started Universal Credit I thought I’d be able to get more support but they don’t view further education as a means to progress.

“I want to work and get a good job but as a single parent it’s so tricky covering child care. I feel they (the system) don’t want me to succeed to get back into society. I’m just another statistic. I don’t feel supported at all.”

Women like Ayo and Shavishta are being trapped in poverty. If we want to help free people instead of locking them into further poverty, debt and hardship, we need to make sure Universal Credit can properly support people.

The first thing the Government’s must do is end the five week wait. It’s #5WeeksTooLong.

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