Article @ Morning Star, published 8 December 2015
Foodbanks across Britain will be stretched close to breaking point this Christmas as demand hits record levels after nearly six years of Tory austerity, a charity revealed today.
New figures from foodbank network the Trussell Trust revealed that requests for emergency food have gone up by nearly 14,000.
Users and supporters said that cuts to welfare services and benefit sanctions have left thousands with no other option but to rely on foodbanks.
Single mother Louise, who relied on one of the trust’s banks last year, said: “Christmas makes it so much worse when you have no money.
“My kids love Christmas and I do too, but this year I can’t wait for it to be over.
“It’s so hard seeing all the adverts and knowing I can’t afford to celebrate.”
Between April and September this year, the Trussell Trust handed out 506,369 emergency food packages — which last three days each.
In the same period last year, the number of emergency food supplies given out was 492,641.
December always proves to be a month of high demand for foodbanks — last year requests rose by over 50 per cent during the Christmas period.
This year, £750,000 extra funding from the Big Lottery Fund has allowed the Trussell Trust cope with the pressing strain on its services.
The charity’s CEO David McAuley said: “Every year we meet families who are worried about having nothing to eat on Christmas Day, who have been living and sleeping in one room to keep heating costs to the absolute minimum.
“Foodbank use is likely to rise significantly over the winter months and we’re anticipating that it could peak at the highest level yet this Christmas.
“The funding couldn’t come at a better time.”
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) denied all links between the government austerity policies and the growth of foodbank usage.
But this weekend it was revealed that under David Cameron’s premiership the number of foodbanks in Britain grew to a whopping 425, with more expected to open in the coming months.
Film director Deirdre O’Neill, who is making a documentary about foodbank usage in south London, said there were direct links between the government’s policies and the rise of the number of food packages given out.
“I am working with foodbank users and they tell me that they are not able to feed themselves because of DWP sanctions.
“It’s affecting all types of benefits and people who have their benefits cut.”
The Inside Film producer added that some of the people she spoke to were moved from disability support to jobseeker’s allowance but, unable to attend their appointments due to their conditions, ended being sanctioned over and over again.”
There are “people with angina living on £30 a fortnight,” she said.
A DWP spokesman said: “We spend £80 billion a year to provide a safety net for millions of people who are unemployed or on low incomes.
“There is no evidence that the use of foodbanks is directly linked to welfare reform.”