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Foodbank users skipping meals for days

by Felicity Collier

FOUR in five people referred to foodbanks have had to skip meals for days at a time, a major study revealed yesterday.

Research commissioned by the Trussell Trust charity, which runs 400 foodbanks across the country, found that half of people forced to turn to foodbanks did so because their incomes were “unsteady” from week to week. Some were waiting for benefit payments, while others were hit by a sudden “income shock” caused by increases in housing or food costs.

Oxford University researchers found that half of those asked could not afford heating or toiletries. A similar number were households which included a disabled person.

Trust head David McAuley said of its volunteers: “Every day they are meeting people trying to cope with low, insecure incomes and rising prices that mean even the smallest unexpected expense can leave them destitute and hungry, be that an unexpected bill, bereavement or the loss of income caused by benefit delay.

“Particularly concerning are the very high numbers of disabled people or people with mental-health problems needing foodbanks.”

Campaign group Disabled People Against Cuts (DPac) is taking to Twitter to speak out against former work & pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith, who is spinning the platters on Radio 2 this week, deputising for Jeremy Vine.

In 2013 the Chingford MP, who once claimed “I could live on £53 [a week] if I had to,” accused the charity of scaremongering and denied links between his benefits “reforms” and the soaring numbers of people needing foodbanks.

Commenting on the study, DPac’s Anita Bellows told the Star: “It is shocking to see such high numbers of disabled people and people with mental-health conditions needing foodbanks, but we always knew that they were the people who would find it most difficult, if not impossible, to navigate the Kafkaesque benefits system.

“This situation has been compounded by the roll-out of universal credit, which requires claimants to wait at least six weeks for a first benefit payment, and Department for Work & Pensions maladministration which has plagued much of the welfare reform, to the detriment of claimants.”

Last year, foodbanks provided 1.2 million emergency food supplies.

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