UK Cost of Living Crisis: 3% of Families Use Food Banks, Poverty is on the Rise

UK Cost of Living Crisis: 3% of Families Use Food Banks, Poverty is on the Rise

Felix Yim 23/03/2023
UK Cost of Living Crisis: 3% of Families Use Food Banks, Poverty on the Rise

According to the Department for Work and Pensions, around 3% of UK families used a food bank in the year up to March 2022.

At least 2.1 million people used food banks. The figure rose to 11% for families receiving state income-related benefits, with the north of England and Scotland being the most likely regions to have used a food bank. Families with a head of household aged 16 to 24 were the most likely to have used a food bank, with a figure of 10%. Although the figures only cover some of the pandemic, charity statistics show that food bank usage has continued to rise, with almost 1.3 million food parcels distributed between April and September 2022, a 52% increase compared to the same period in 2019.

People use food banks when they are unable to afford enough food to feed themselves and their families. This may be due to a range of reasons, such as low income, job loss, illness or disability, benefit changes, debt or financial crisis, or unexpected expenses. Food banks provide a temporary source of emergency food assistance to those in need, typically in the form of donated non-perishable food items that are collected, sorted and distributed by volunteers. Food banks usually require a referral from a care professional such as a health visitor, social worker or school staff member, who identifies people who need support and issues them with a voucher to collect a food package.

Heather Buckingham, Director of Policy and Research at food poverty charity the Trussell Trust, called the figures “deeply concerning” and urged politicians to ensure that Universal Credit covers the cost of essentials. She added that households with people with disabilities and single-parent families were overrepresented among those using food banks. Food banks receive donated non-perishable food and other essential items, which are then sorted into parcels for those in need. Care professionals can issue food bank vouchers to those in need.

Other figures published by the DWP revealed that the number of people living in poverty in the UK had almost returned to pre-pandemic levels, with 14.4 million people estimated to be in relative low-income households in the year up to March 2022. The figure for children living in poverty rose from 3.9 million to 4.2 million during the same period. Charities, including Save the Children UK, Action for Children, and Barnado's, have called for action to be taken to reduce poverty, including increasing the child element of Universal Credit, scrapping the benefit cap, and extending free school meals to all primary school children in England. Andrew Forsey, National Director of Feeding Britain, called for the government to reduce monthly deductions from Universal Credit, which he described as a “poverty tax”. A government spokeswoman said the figures reflected the country coming out of the pandemic and rising prices, but that the government was committed to eradicating poverty and providing support to those in need.

There are several ways in which the UK can tackle the cost of living crisis. One immediate step is to provide targeted support to those who need it the most, such as low-income families, individuals with disabilities, and single-parent households. This could include increasing the basic rate of Universal Credit to ensure that it covers the cost of essentials. Additionally, the government could consider measures to increase the supply of affordable housing and address the rising energy costs, such as investing in renewable energy sources and providing financial assistance to vulnerable households. Promoting greater competition in the market and reducing barriers to entry for new businesses could also help to drive down prices and increase consumer choice. Finally, improving access to education and training, as well as promoting innovation and productivity, could boost economic growth and help to alleviate the pressures of the cost of living crisis.

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Felix Yim

Tech Expert

Felix is the founder of Society of Speed, an automotive journal covering the unique lifestyle of supercar owners. Alongside automotive journalism, Felix recently graduated from university with a finance degree and enjoys helping students and other young founders grow their projects. 

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