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As the cold weather bites, how do we ensure everyone has enough money for fuel?

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“I am constantly writing letters and making phone calls to see what help or advice I can get. I am at breaking point, as each day there is something else to contend with. I feel helpless, mentally exhausted and so low. I really don’t know what I am going to do. I cannot get by month to month. It’s hard enough doing it week to week on a low income. I can’t afford to use my heating, even though it is so cold and my son suffers with his chest and lungs. No doubt he will end up in hospital during this cold period.”

This Fuel Poverty Awareness Day, we want to want to raise awareness not only of fuel poverty, but also the responses, both amongst local communities and through policy, that can stem the tide.

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Putting food on the table: the human right to eat in the fifth richest country in the world

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As a society, we believe in justice and compassion. That, as we grow up, we should have the same chance to get on and succeed in life – whether we’re from the Cheshire countryside, or the potteries of Stoke-on-Trent.

For most of us, this starts with having enough to eat, proper clothing, and a safe place to call home. But what happens when we can’t put enough food on the table? Who can – and should – step in to help?

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Why working with Asda & FareShare will help bring us closer to ending the need for foodbanks

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It’s simply not acceptable that so many people in the UK face hunger, and we won’t sit by whilst increasing numbers of people are expected to hit crisis and need a foodbank’s help.

We’re committed to creating long term change, challenging the structural issues that lock people into poverty and seeing an end to the need for foodbanks. Whilst we work on this, we’re also committed to ensuring everyone referred to a foodbank in our network receives the best possible support.

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Why does having a disability or health issue make you more likely to face hunger?

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“I was sanctioned because I missed an appointment at the Job Centre.  I was severely depressed, and sometimes when I am like that I can’t leave the flat.  My electric has almost run out so I can’t heat water and I am having a light on as little as possible. I know the cause of my depression and anxiety but I can’t get any free counselling or help.”

Mick’s* account of his struggle to keep his benefits in payment is typical of many of those we hear at Exeter Foodbank.  Disclosing personal details to strangers, filling out complex paperwork or navigating call centre phone systems can be daunting for anyone.  For those, like Mick, who suffer from chronic mental health conditions, or have limited literacy and digital skills, it can be a Herculean step too far.  Many arrive at our foodbank’s doors in desperate circumstances, with nowhere else to turn.

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We can’t end hunger without knowing its scale

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Until you understand the true magnitude of a problem, you cannot effectively solve it. That’s why this week, as part of End Hunger UK, a coalition of organisations trying to eliminate hunger, we released figures on the scale of hidden hunger in this country. The findings are shocking. Over 1 in 10 adults are skipping meals because of lack of money. When you look at parents with children aged 18 and under, that rises to 1 in 4.

To anyone who has spent any time in a foodbank, however, these findings will not be a surprise. What is happening up and down the country is mirrored in our network of over 400 foodbanks.

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Dave Magill, Area Manager for Northern Ireland reflects on the ‘reality of foodbanks’

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I’ve now worked for Trussell Trust for 7 months. I had another of what I think of as my ‘reality of foodbank’ moments today.

We were in a meeting with someone who wanted information about how a Trussell Trust foodbank works. As we explained the model that we use, causes of food poverty and talked through some statistics of foodbank use in Northern Ireland and the wider UK network, I was again experiencing the contrast of feeling that comes with this job.

Working with foodbanks is simultaneously saddening, infuriating, uplifting and inspiring. Working with people of such passion and commitment to serving and helping those in crisis in their community is humbling and challenging. Engaging with the causes and reality of food poverty in 21st century Northern Ireland is shocking and crushing.

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Foodbanks in 2017: Change is Possible

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Read the new report Emergency Use Only II 

Three years ago, CPAG and the Trussell Trust were among the organisations who published Emergency Use Only, one of the first pieces of research to shed light on the drivers of the enormous increases in food bank use that we have seen this decade. We found that the immediate trigger for food bank use was all-too-often caused by the benefit system – through delays, errors, and sanctions – that prompted an acute income crisis, leaving households with little or no income. Turning to a food bank was often an action of last resort, once people’s other avenues of support had been exhausted.

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We welcomed changes in the Budget but now is not a time for celebration

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“I lost my job in October and have been relying on money from friends and family to survive, but that is no longer possible.  I haven’t eaten for five days and will not get Universal Credit for six weeks, so went to the council in desperation – they gave me a foodbank voucher.  Thank you to the foodbank.”

This is just one of the many stories gathered by Trussell Trust foodbank volunteers and staff that we passed on to the Work & Pensions Select Committee inquiry into Universal Credit, publicised through press and social media, and I’ve had the opportunity to share directly with people at all levels of DWP ahead of the 2017 Budget.

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Guest blog: We should stop debating and start solving increasing foodbank use

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UCL has always led on issues of significance to the nutritional health of the nation. Dr Jack Drummond, the first Professor of Biochemistry at UCL and former Dean of the Faculty of Medical Sciences, was the wartime Scientific Advisor to the Ministry of Food, which introduced food-rationing on the basis of his “sound nutritional principles”. It was essential work because a 1936 survey had suggested that half of the British population could not afford an adequate diet. Food poverty is a major public health concern again. One of its most visible symptoms is the number of people attending Foodbanks to receive emergency food aid. The Trussell Trust has reported that in the first 6 months of this year, referrals were up by 13% to 587,000 people, including 209,000 children.

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If Universal Credit rollout continues like this, foodbanks won’t be able to catch everyone who falls

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Last year The Trussell Trust provided 1.2 million emergency three day emergency food supplies. We recently released the biggest study into foodbank use in Britain to date. We found that the majority of people referred to our foodbanks were at the time supported by working age benefits. Yet the average income for households was just £319 in the month before they were referred to us.

It’s no surprise that trying to live off so little for an entire month can lead to destitution and hunger. Most households had been unable to afford heating, toiletries or suitable shoes or clothes for the weather. 78% had skipped meals and gone without eating – sometimes for days at a time, often multiple times a year.

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