Blog

Four ways to the end the need for emergency food in Northern Ireland

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By Jonny Currie, Northern Ireland Network Lead at the Trussell Trust

The upcoming Northern Ireland Assembly elections on 5 May are a crucial opportunity to ask prospective Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs) to commit to measures that will end the need for emergency food in Northern Ireland. 

 

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Six reasons we’re excited about our new partnership with Deliveroo

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By Penny Russell, New Partnerships Manager at the Trussell Trust

The food banks in our network gave out over 2.5 million emergency food parcels to people facing hardship last year. Nearly a million of these were given to children.  

Our new partnership with Deliveroo comes at the right time; as the cost of living continues to soar, the funds raised by the partnership will help the food banks in our network continue to provide the compassionate, practical support they do so well.  

 

How does the partnership help us work towards a future without the need for food banks? 

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Five Things You Should Know About Universal Credit

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By Anna Hughes, Policy Officer

The benefits system, Universal Credit, was introduced in 2013 with the intention to help people on the lowest income in the UK. As food and energy prices soar, it is now vital that Universal Credit is increased with the cost of living, to prevent more people from being pushed towards food banks.  

However in March, the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, was widely criticised for failing to utilise Universal Credit in his response to the cost of living crisis in his Spring Statement. 

So, what exactly is Universal Credit? What are the problems with it? And what changes are we calling for the Chancellor to make to ensure the system gives people enough to afford the essentials?  

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Four things that we learnt from working alongside people with experience of being in debt to government – and how to fix the system

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“At the food bank – they’re absolutely brilliant, [but] they shouldn’t have to exist… government and organisations are relying on them too much, they pass the buck to volunteers.” – Tim

What is ‘government debt’?

As the nation faces a cost-of-living crisis and recovers from the devastating effects of the pandemic, new research shows people who cannot afford the essentials are being pushed deeper into poverty by a rising tide of government debt.

This debt can take many forms, including paying back Advance Payments given to people on Universal Credit to cover the five-week wait for their first benefit payment, paying back council tax debt to local authorities, repaying benefit overpayments, and more. Sometimes some of these are referred to as deductions from benefits, but here we are primarily calling them debt.

Nearly half of people referred to food banks in the Trussell Trust network are in debt to the DWP (Department for Work and Pensions – the department responsible for social security).

People who have experience of being in debt to government have been working closely with the Trussell Trust and Humankind Research, to develop ideas for what a fairer repayment system might look like.

Here are four key things we’ve learnt:

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Dignity through language

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By Janet Homan, volunteer 

The food banks in the Trussell Trust Network work hard to ensure that their services are accessible to everyone in their community. Language should never be a barrier to receiving support when it is needed. Over the summer, a group of volunteers got together to improve the number of resources available to people for whom English isn’t their native language. 

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Eight years of support – Southend Foodbank

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Natasha Copus Southend Foodbank Project Manager

Southend Foodbank first opened its doors on 1 November 2013. As the food bank prepares for its eighth anniversary, we spoke to Natasha Copus who joined as Project Manager four years ago.  

The food bank has eight distribution centres and a warehouse serving the seaside community in Essex. Due to the pandemic, a couple of the sites have temporarily closed, but there is always one open from Monday to Saturday to welcome guests.  

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Spotlight on the vital contribution of volunteers in the Foodbank Network

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By Miranda Beebe, Head of Volunteer Management 

Food banks are truly remarkable at connecting people with a passion to serve others – to come together and challenge injustice across the length and breadth of the UK. Every day in the network, we know thousands of volunteers turn up to stand alongside people experiencing crisis and show them solidarity and friendship.  

Today, we want to put the spotlight on Worcester Foodbank, who we noticed had logged 5,500 hours amongst 87 volunteers since February, when they first started using the volunteer management system, Assemble. In reality, the number is far higher as the 5,500 doesn’t account for additional hours for collections, deliveries and staying late after shifts. 

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Party conference and the Universal Credit cut: The Chancellor would do well to listen to his own party members ​

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By Sumi Rabindrakumar, Head of Policy & Research

Party conferences are usually full of slogans; at the Trussell Trust, we try to push political parties to put some meaning behind them. This year, at Labour and Conservative party conferences, we discussed how we can end the need for food banks, drawing on frontline experience from experts in our network, lessons from the pandemic, and insight across levels of government. After another record number of emergency food parcels provided across the UK (a shocking 2.5 million in our network), we urgently need action.  

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“We are one step away from food banks and working consistently to keep our heads above the rising tide.”

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By Alex, who will be hit by the £20 cut to Universal Credit if the Government goes ahead with their plans 

The numbers around the impact of the planned cut to Universal Credit are, by now, more familiar; 1.2 million people could be forced to skip meals, 1.3 million people could struggle to heat their homes this winter and 900,000 people tell us they’re very likely not to have enough money to travel to work or make essential trips like medical appointments. But behind these stats are the people who live in our communities, who will feel the devastating impact of the cut. 

Alex and his wife applied for Universal Credit when his job came to a complete standstill during the pandemic and his wife’s mental health deteriorated. Since then, they have been struggling to stay afloat and have skipped meals to be able to feed their son. 

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