Emergency food supplies handed out by Redbridge food banks soared by 42pc last year, figures show
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The number of emergency supplies handed out by food banks in Redbridge has soared over the last year, figures from a leading charity show.
Data released by the Trussell Trust, which coordinates a national network of food banks, shows that 6,011 emergency three-day food supplies were handed out in Redbridge in the year to March 2019.
Forty-five percent of these went to children.
This was a 42pc increase on the year before, when 4,237 packs were distributed, while the across the country the proportion of emergency supplies handed out has risen by 19pc.
The Trussell Trust attributes this trend to benefits being insufficient to cover living costs and payment delays for Universal Credit among other reasons.
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Jon Abrams, of disabilities charity One Place East, based in Ilford Lane, said: “It is a scandal that so many people, including large numbers of children, are struggling to eat because they cannot afford food.”
He highlighted that delays in Universal Credit payments will hurt deaf and disabled people in Redbridge especially, “many of whom have had to bear the brunt of cuts and government austerity”.
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He said: “At the very least, the government as a matter of urgency must end the five-week wait for a first Universal Credit payment and come up with solutions to address the digital exclusion of numerous deaf and disabled people.”
Across London, more than 165,000 emergency food supplies were handed out last year – a 24pc increase on the previous 12 months.
The Trussell Trust’s chief executive, Emma Revie, said: “What we are seeing year upon year is more and more people struggling to eat because they simply cannot afford food. This is not right.
“Our benefits system is supposed to protect us all from being swept into poverty. Universal Credit should be part of the solution but currently the five-week wait is leaving many without enough money to cover the basics.
“As a priority, we’re urging the Government to end the wait for Universal Credit to ease the pressure on thousands of households.
“Ultimately, it’s unacceptable that anyone should have to use a food bank in the first place.
“No charity can replace the dignity of having financial security. That’s why, in the long term, we’re urging the Government to ensure benefit payments reflect the true cost of living and work is secure, paying the real living wage, to help ensure we are all anchored from poverty.”
A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said: “It is not true to say that people need to wait five weeks for their first payment. Universal Credit is available to claimants on day one.
“It also cannot be claimed that Universal Credit is driving the overall use of food banks or that benefit changes and delays are driving growth.
“The Trust’s own analysis shows a substantial fall in the share of parcels being issued due to benefit payment delays.
“The best route out of poverty is to help people into sustainable employment which, with record employment, we are doing.”
Redbridge Council has introduced a number of measures to help ensure residents able to access all benefits they entitled to, including face-to-face appointments.
For benefits advice contact 020 8708 4190