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Wellbeing

New report shows number using food banks has risen dramatically in recent years

Posted 09 December 2014

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Thousands of people are now relying on food banks to feed their family, and it could be partly due to high-cost debt.


The number of people using food banks has had a huge increase over the last few years, with delays in benefits, high-cost debt, and low wages cited as some of the reasons by a new inquiry.

 

The report was carried out by a group of Labour and Conservative MPs, as well as church leaders, and looked at the reasons why some people said they needed to use food banks to get by. It also found that the number of Trussell Trust food banks around the UK has increased from just a few to 420 over the last decade, with more people relying on them than ever.

Rising costs of living

According to the report, which looked at spending across several countries, Britain has had the highest levels of inflation over the last ten years, including increases in food, housing, and fuel prices. However, salaries haven’t kept up, meaning that some people have started to struggle to afford basic essentials such as rent and energy bills. This has meant that some people have had to be referred to food banks to get their family through to the next payday.

 

However, another big reason for the increase in food bank users was debt. According to the report, one in five of those using Trussell Trust food banks said that debt was the main reason they were in the situation. The inquiry found that there are 1,427 payday loan shops across the country, and has called for better access to cheaper credit options, such as credit unions. It has also asked the government to make sure that payday lenders are treating their customers fairly.

 

Some of the changes recommended by the inquiry include faster benefits payments, more free school meals, and better education about budgeting. If people’s finances are stretched, they may be relying on their benefits being paid on a specific date so that they can afford to pay their bills. However, the reportrevealed that administrative errors and outdated programmes have meant that some payments weren’t made on time … meaning that some of the poorest people could have been left short for rent or food.

Struggling over Christmas

With Christmas just around the corner, many people may find their money is tighter than usual. If you’re already struggling to manage problem debt, you may find this time hard - especially if you’re relying on benefits payments to afford bills or repayments. According to the report, many families are just one unexpected bill away from financial danger.

 

If you’re finding it difficult to feed your family, you’ll need to get a voucher to be able to use a Trussell Trust food bank. You can get these from doctors, social workers, your local Citizens Advice Bureau or police officers, and food banks will then be able to give you up to three days’ worth of emergency food.

 

While Christmas can be an expensive time, it’s important that you still try to monitor your spending closely so you know where your money is going. Last year, some benefits were paid late due to administrative error, meaning that some people were left without their money for Christmas. Though it’s unlikely that a similar event will happen this year, if you’re relying on benefits payments to manage your debts, you may need help with getting your finances sorted out.

 

If you think you could struggle to afford food over Christmas, check out our tips for feeding your family for less than £20 a week. However, if you have to cut back on food to repay your debts, you may have a debt problem and you could consider speaking to an independent expert for advice on how to start to get your finances back on track.

by Emily Bancroft

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To find out more about managing your money and getting free debt advice, visit Money Advice Service, an independent service set up to help people manage their money.