Food bank use has soared at a higher rate than ever in the past year as welfare benefits fail to cover basic living costs, the UK’s national food bank provider has warned.
Figures from the Trussel Trust show that in the year to March 2018, 1,332,952 three-day emergency food supplies were delivered to people in crisis across the UK. This is a 13 per cent increase on last year. This marks a considerably higher increase than the previous financial year, when it rose by 6 per cent.
Low income is the biggest single – and fastest growing – reason for referral to food banks, accounting for 28 per cent of referrals compared to 26 per cent in the previous year. Analysis of trends over time demonstrates it has significantly increased since April 2016.
Being in debt also accounted for an increasing percentage of referrals – at 9 per cent of referrals up from 8 per cent in the past year. The cost of housing and utility bills are increasingly driving food bank referrals for this reason. The proportion of referrals are due to housing debt and utility bill debt increasing significantly since April 2016.
The other main primary referral reasons in the past year were benefit delays (24 per cent) and benefit changes (18 per cent). “Reduction in benefit value” have the fastest growth rate of all referrals made due to a benefit change, while those due to “moving to a different benefit” have also grown significantly.
It comes amid growing concerns over the rollout of universal credit, which has been identified as a significant factor in the rise in food bank use.
Analysis by the Trussell Trust of food banks that have been in full universal credit rollout areas for a year or more shows they saw an average increase of 52 per cent in the twelve months after the full rollout date in their area, compared to twelve months before.
Food banks that are either not in full universal credit areas, or only in full rollout areas for up to three months, meanwhile showed an average increase of 13 per cent.