Britain’s food banks “close to breaking point,” warned Rishi Sunak

A group of more than 550 food banks across the UK have warned Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak they are close to “breaking point” due to an unsustainable surge in demand during the subsistence crisis.

Soaring energy bills, rising grocery costs and social security increases are putting a growing number of families on the brink, with demand for help at some food banks doubling since the final months of 2021.

The Independent Food Aid Network (IFAN) has written a letter to the Chancellor urging him to take immediate action to reduce “rapidly rising” poverty and hunger The Independent.

Mr Sunak – under mounting pressure over his family’s tax rules – has been accused of failing to protect the poorest families by opting not to offer additional help with bills or benefits with his spring declaration.

As the Chancellor’s standing among Conservatives has been shaken by the tax revelations, senior Tory MPs have said The Independent the chancellor “should do more” before the autumn budget, otherwise she risks losing further support.

IFAN called on the Chancellor to increase benefits by 8 percent in line with expected inflation, end a five-week wait for benefits and provide financial crisis payments to families in the worst need.

“We are deeply concerned by the level of suffering we are already experiencing and our ability to keep people safe from hunger in the coming weeks and months,” IFAN said in its letter, which was also sent to No.10.

The letter added, “Urgent action is needed to significantly increase people’s incomes… Food banks are reaching breaking point.”

Micah Liverpool Food Bank, where the demand for help has skyrocketed

(Mark Louden)

Penny Keevil, manager at Second Chance Medway in Kent, narrates The Independent that her food aid project is now helping around 2,000 individuals or families with parcels every month – twice as many households as in October.

“This is the worst poverty I’ve seen in 30 years,” she said. “People come to us in tears and say, ‘I’ll either pay the bills or feed the kids.’ And I’m like, ‘You pay the bills and we’ll feed the kids.’”

Some food banks have been forced to reduce the amount of food they hand out because supply could not meet demand. “We’re all at breaking point,” Ms. Keevil said. “It will be a real struggle to help everyone. The government has to do something.”

Micah Liverpool Food Bank coordinator Paul O’Brien has seen aid demand surge from 220 packets a week in 2020 to around 400 packets a week today – with the sharpest rise in recent months amid rising bills.

“It’s the kind of toughness I’ve never seen before; We see families living in one room to keep warm because they can’t afford to turn on the heating,” Mr O’Brien said. “Some people refuse vegetables because they can’t afford to cook them.”

The head of the charity said food banks are facing “impossible” pressures: a drop in the amount of food donated by the public, financial reserves that don’t go as far when buying extra supplies at the supermarket, and a huge surge in the number of those in need.

“It’s an incredible track,” said Mr O’Brien. “It’s not sustainable. Food banks cannot keep up with the increasing demand. I’m afraid you might see some charities collapse and some people in need.”

Rishi Sunak is urged to do more to help families in trouble


Citizens Advice has seen a record number of people in crisis in recent months. In March, the charity referred nearly 25,000 people to food banks or other types of emergency aid — a 44 percent increase from the same time last year.

Advisors to the charity say some parents have resorted to hand washing because they can’t afford to run the washing machine. Others, including those fresh from hospital, wrap themselves in blankets because they cannot afford to use the heater.

Collette, a mother of two in Lancashire, recounted The Independent She now skipped meals to ensure her children had enough to eat.

She has been forced to contact food banks regularly since being switched to new energy tariffs in December, which sent her gas and electricity bills skyrocketing by 50 percent.

“It’s not a nice feeling that food banks are becoming the norm for us — but a lot of parents are in the same boat as I am,” said Collette, who has an illness and receives benefits.

“I owe almost £1,000 on energy bills so the prospect of another price hike in October is scary. The government needs to provide more help – they need to understand what we are all facing.”

Rishi Sunak confronts mother who can’t afford to heat her house

Mr Sunak has been accused by charity leaders of failing to protect the poorest as the 3.1 per cent benefit increase that takes effect on Monday does not match inflation, which is expected to reach 7.7 per cent this month.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation said this was the biggest drop in the value of the unemployment benefit policy in 50 years.

Deputy Director Helen Barnard told Sky News on Sunday that some people were in “desperate situations” and some pensioners rode the bus all day to keep warm.

Some Conservatives fear Mr Sunak’s failure to expand help with bills and benefits – and his insistence on sticking to the 1.25 percent increase in Social Security that went into effect this week – will cost the party dearly in May’s local elections standing will come.

A senior Tory figure narrated The Independent: “Citizens aren’t happy about the cost of living and tax increases, and in a month’s time when the bills come, they’ll be less happy. The chancellor should do more by the fall.”

Food bank volunteers unpack groceries in Penicuik, Scotland


Tory MP Andrew Bridgen has said Mr Sunak may need to consider an emergency budget before Parliament’s summer recess. “People are in a very difficult position over the next 12 months and we have to help.”

The Chancellor last month boosted the Household Support Fund by £500million, making more money available to local authorities to help people in the worst need.

However, both IFAN and food bank network Trussell Trust said councils have used it to hand out vouchers or provide extra funding to charities, leaving the underlying problem of low incomes unaddressed.

IFAN coordinator Sabine Goodwin urged ministers to adopt a “cash first” approach. “The chancellor cannot wait until autumn to take action. The government must take action to directly boost low incomes.”

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