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'Very high numbers' of foodbank users have mental health problems and disabilities- report

John Ashmore

3 min read

A “very high number” of people with disabilities and mental health problems are being forced to use food banks, a devastating new report has concluded.

The research found that more than half of households relying on emergency food parcels included a disabled person, while a third included someone with mental illness.

Academics from Oxford University interviewed hundreds of people around the UK over 18 months to produce findings on why people are driven to use foodbanks.

The work was commissioned by the Trussell Trust, a charity that runs 428 foodbanks around the country.  Its chief executive said the report showed ministers must“do more” to alleviate extreme poverty.

The data paints a picture of extreme insecurity for people on low incomes, with delays to benefits payments, expensive payday loans and high housing costs all putting pressure on finances.

Increases in food prices and energy bills also contributed to people not being able to afford to eat, the researchers found.

Four in five of those surveyed said they went hungry on multiple occasions per year - a pattern described as a “serious public health concern” by report author Dr Rachel Loopstra.

Trussell Trust chief executive David McAuley said the findings confirm what the charity’s volunteers have experienced.

“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.

“These findings reaffirm how vital the work of foodbanks and generosity of donors is, but are also a clear challenge to the new Government to do more to stop people ending up in crisis in the first place.”

Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Debbie Abrahams said the report was “further evidence of the total failure of the Tory austerity project”.

“The fact that four out of five foodbank users go hungry over a year cannot be allowed to continue,” she said.

“That’s why the next Labour Government will transform the social security system so that, like the NHS, it is there for us all in our time of need.”

A government spokesman said the Government was helping alleviate poverty by getting more people into work.

The UK currently has the lowest unemployment rate since records began, with almost 3m jobs added since the Conservatives came to power in 2010.

“Employment is the best route out of poverty, and with record numbers of people – including disabled people – now in work, we’ve made great progress,” the spokesman said.

“But we want to go even further to help ordinary families. That’s why we’ve doubled free childcare, introduced Universal Credit and increased the National Living Wage and tax free Personal Allowance to make sure it always pays to be in work.”

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