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Foodbank - copyright Jeff Blackler/REX
UK News

Bishop calls food bank rise a 'national scandal'

by Desmond Busteed

Rt Revd Christopher Chessun was responding to a Church of England commissioned report that has also discovered some claimants' payments are being stopped over missing tax credits.

Bishop Christopher told Premier's News Hour the government needs to change several policies to stop the problem: "It is a scandal that a rich affluent nation like ours should need food banks. Why is there a need for food banks...? Well we have to a mirror up to ourselves as a society and a community."

Bishop Christopher helped launch Emergency Use Only, believed to be the largest research project into food banks to date in the UK.

The report revealed that income crisis could be caused by sudden loss of earnings, change in family circumstances or housing problems.

However, for between half and two thirds of the users from whom additional data was collected, the immediate trigger for food bank use was linked to problems with benefits, including waiting for benefits to be paid, sanctions or missing tax credits.

Many food bank users were also not made aware of the various crisis payments available in different circumstances, and even fewer were receiving them, according to the study.

Nineteen to 28% of users for whom additional data was collected had recently had household benefits stopped or reduced because of a sanction and 28-34% were waiting for a benefit claim which had not been decided, with food bank users facing multiple challenges, including ill-health, relationship breakdown, mental health problems or substantial caring responsibilities.

Many were also unable to work or had recently lost their job. The frequency of bereavement among food bank users was also a striking feature of this, according to the research.

Researchers interviewed 40 food bank users at seven Trussell Trust food banks across the country whose experiences shed light on the factors that are driving food bank demand in the UK.

The interviews were supported by additional data collected from more than 900 recipients at three Trussell Trust food banks and analysis of the cases of 178 clients accessing an advice service at one food bank.

The research, jointly conducted by Oxfam, Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) , the Church of England and the Trussell Trust, also examines how food bank use fits in with wider coping strategies and what might be done to reduce the need that leads to food bank use.

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