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Emergency Use Only: understanding and reducing the use of food banks in the UK

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Emergency Use Only: understanding and reducing the use of food banks in the UK

Visiting a food bank should be a last resort: we all hope that if times get hard, the safety net is there to make sure we aren’t left without the means to buy food for ourselves or our family. Yet new research from the Child Poverty Action Group, Oxfam, Church of England and the Trussell Trust has found that failures in the social safety net itself are often the trigger for food bank referrals.

The report finds that, while money is tight for many reasons, including bereavement, relationship breakdown, illness or job loss, issues such as sanctions, delays in benefits decisions or payments or being declared ‘fit for work’ led people to turn to food banks for support.

Around a third of foodbank users in the sample were waiting for a decision on their benefits – and struggling in the meantime
Between 20 and 30% had their household benefits reduced or stopped because of a sanction
Other factors included loss of income due to the ‘bedroom tax’ or the benefit cap.

The research used 40 in-depth interviews with food bank users, data from over 900 users at over 20 food banks around the country, and detailed analysis of nearly 200 clients accessing one food bank in Tower Hamlets.



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