First Food Poverty Report shows four in ten were children
Wandsworth Foodbank’s Food Poverty Report, published today, reveals that in 2013-2014 it gave three days’ emergency food and support to 1551 individual people at least once – and that 4 in 10 of these were children.
Care professionals and local advice agencies such as Wandsworth Advice and the Disability and Social Care Advice Service (Dascas) met at St Mark’s Church Battersea Rise today to hear the findings which were taken from voucher data on the 1551 people helped, guest interviews and a survey of 143 Voucher Partners.(*)
The report shows that benefit delay and change was the most common reason that local frontline care professionals referred people in crisis to the foodbank, accounting for 42% of all referrals. Eighty-two per cent of Voucher Partners said that benefit sanctions had ‘often’ or ‘sometimes’ been a reason for referring a client.
Low income (22%), debt (9%), unemployment (6%), homelessness (4%) and the impact of domestic violence (3%) were some of the other reasons why Wandsworth residents needed help from the foodbank.
The report highlighted the personal impact of poverty on local people’s physical and mental health, with 16% of guests interviewed reporting that they or their partner had been suicidal in the past year.
Other guests were open in talking about the temptation or pressure to steal to provide food for themselves and their family:
“What are you going to push yourself to do that you don’t want to do? Commit crime just to survive? You can’t get more desperate than that.”
The report also reveals that, while 97% of Voucher Partners felt that the service provided by the foodbank was ‘excellent’ or ‘good’, Voucher Partners also expressed concerns that the foodbank was filling gaps left by a deficient social security system:
“Foodbanks offer a life line of support to families living in poverty. My only concern would be how families would be supported if there were no food banks. The issues relating to why families need food banks need to be addressed as no child living in their country should go to bed hungry cold or scared at night.” (Wandsworth Foodbank Voucher Partner)
The report makes seven recommendations based on the report’s findings, including:
• asking local businesses and Wandsworth Council to pay the London Living Wage to all their employees, so that they are more able to meet the rising cost of living in the Capital and can be more financially resilient in times of crisis.
• calling on Wandsworth Job Centre Plus to proactively tell their clients experiencing benefit delay or change about DWP provisions available, such as Short-Term Benefit Advance, which the report reveals is apparently not happening at the moment.
• asking that Wandsworth Council commit to continue to provide a Discretionary Social Fund (DSF) for their residents in need – and to make it more accessible – even when national government funding to local authority welfare assistance schemes ends in 2015.
Sarah Chapman, a Trustee of Wandsworth Foodbank and one of the report’s co-authors with Elspeth Bracken and Alisi Mekatoa, says:
‘We are pleased to be part of a local community response helping people in crisis, and we are incredibly grateful to everyone who has donated food, money or time to help their neighbours who are struggling to put food on the table. However we strongly believe that the local and national social security system should be strengthened to continue to ensure it is the primary safety net for all Wandsworth residents, and our recommendations reflect this.’
During the year, 22.4 tonnes of food was generously donated by members of the local community, including churches, schools and shoppers at supermarket collection days. More than 300 volunteers gave their time to collect, sort and store donated food, and to welcome guests to one of the foodbank centres spread across the Borough.
The Food Poverty Report has also been submitted to the All Party Parliamentary Group on Food Poverty, chaired by Frank Field MP, which is due to report back its findings at the end of this year.
(*) Local frontline care professionals who are registered with Wandsworth Foodbank to issue foodbank vouchers to their clients in crisis. By the end of March 2014, there were 143 separate local agencies registered as Voucher Partners.
July 17, 2014