Foodbanks call for direct DWP hotline, as new figures show half a million emergency food parcels distributed by Trussell Trust foodbanks in six months.

  • More than 500,000 three day emergency food parcels distributed to people in crisis in first half of the year – over 188,500 to children
  • Issues with benefits account for 44 per cent of all referrals
  • Charity calls for foodbank telephone ‘hotline' to local Job Centres to support people in crisis more quickly and efficiently, reducing negative impact on mental wellbeing

Anti-poverty charity, The Trussell Trust, has today proposed a direct telephone line between foodbanks and local job centres – as it reveals that more than half a million emergency food parcels have been issued in the first six months of the year. The staggering number means that the foodbank network is on course to distribute the highest number of food parcels in its 12-year history during 2016-17.

Between April and September 2016, Trussell Trust Foodbanks provided 836 three day emergency food supplies to people in crisis, in Dagenham and Rainham, and 371 were for children. However these figures do not include the churches, children's centres, and other charitable organisations which also provide food parcels for those in need across Dagenham and Rainham. So it is anticipated by the office of Jon Cruddas MP that the figures are in fact much higher.

Across the UK over 500,000 three day emergency food supplies were given out, over 188,500 were for children. This is an increase of 2% overall, compared to the same time last year.

Jon Cruddas MP for Dagenham and Rainham commented: "these numbers are staggering, the fact that well over 800 people in my constituency had to rely on foodbanks during a six month period this year is completely unacceptable. This Tory government has a lot to answer for when statistics highlight that over 40 per cent of people using foodbanks did so because of benefit related problems."

Benefit delays and changes have been the biggest reasons for foodbank use, accounting for forty-four per cent of referrals to Trussell Trust foodbanks (27.4 per cent benefit delay; 16.6 per cent benefit changes). In response the charity is calling for a hotline to each foodbank's local Job Centre Plus.

Low income was the second largest cause of a crisis, accounting for nearly one in four of all referrals to Trussell Trust foodbanks, driven by problems such as low pay, insecure work or rising costs.

The Trussell Trust recently welcomed moves by the Department for Work & Pensions to look again at disability benefits and Work Capability Assessments and proposes a phone hotline as another measure to help people out of crisis. This would provide timely and invaluable trouble-shooting support for people referred to foodbanks because of problems with a welfare claim.

A hotline would be a low cost solution that allows foodbank managers and volunteers to support those in serious crises more quickly and efficiently, reducing stress and negative impact on the mental wellbeing of people referred to the foodbank. Evidence from The Trussell Trust network of foodbanks suggests foodbank managers, volunteers and welfare advisers spend a significant amount of time on hold to DWP phone lines on behalf of people in crisis.

Jon added: "I am in full support of the Trussell Trust's call for a hotline – which would iron out the referral process, especially in instances of serious crises. My office has operated as a referral centre for a number of years and the process is somewhat convoluted, which doesn't help in what are already stressful situations for residents."