Ipswich Unemployed Action.

Campaigning for Unemployed Rights.

Posts Tagged ‘food bank

Sanctions and Benefit Freeze Blamed for Rise in Food Banks Use and Growth in Mental Health Problems.

with 104 comments

From Ken,

Benefit sanctions are increasing hunger and depression not driving down unemployment

The UK is a fairly hostile environment to be unemployed, but some might say the approach is starting to pay off. After all, unemployment is currently at its lowest rate in 42 years, with 109,000 more people entering employment in the three months to April this year.

With numbers like that, some people might be wondering if aggressive tactics such as benefit sanctions are helping drive willfully unemployed people into gainful work.

Yet that is not what the public spending watchdog believes. Last year the National Audit Office – the independent body that monitors spending for Parliament – declared that benefit sanctions are inconsistently applied across the country and that withholding payments pushes claimants into hardship, increasing their chances of experiencing hunger and depression.

 Now, the latest report by Oxford University and the Trussell Trust food bank network has revealed that almost 80 per cent of food bank users had experienced food insecurity in the previous 12 months, meaning they could not buy enough food and/or had experienced entire days with nothing to eat.

The issue of price rises and insecure incomes are major factors in ‘food insecurity’.

The former justifies our call for an end to the benefits freeze.

The latter raises the issue of Universal Credit delays and Sanctions.

This is from the Report: Financial insecurity, food  insecurity, and disability: The profile of people receiving emergency food assistance from The Trussell Trust Foodbank Network in Britain  2017

  • Financial and food insecurity: Almost half of households reported their incomes were unsteady from week-to-week and month-to-month. 78% are severely food insecure (meaning they had skipped meals and gone without eating – sometimes for days at a time – in the past 12 months), while over half could not afford heating or toiletries
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  • Price rises: 3 in 5 households had recently experienced rising or unexpected expenses, with 25% of these saying higher food expenses were to blame, confirming the impact of food inflation on squeezed budgets
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  • Housing: 28% of those who had experienced rising expenses said this was due to housing costs, such as rent or energy, going up. Tenants in private housing were more likely to find it difficult to keep up with rents than socially rented properties
  • Disability and mental health: Over 50% of households included a disabled person, consistent with the definition used in national surveys. 75% experienced ill health in their household. Mental health conditions affected people in 1/3 of households
  • Debt: 1 in 3 households were finding it difficult to make minimum monthly repayments on outstanding loans, and nearly 1 in 5 in debt owed money to payday lenders
  • The report found people were experiencing multiple forms of destitution. 50% had gone without heating for more than four days in the past 12 months, 50% couldn’t afford toiletries, and 1 in 5 had slept rough in the last 12 months. Over 78% of households were severely, and often chronically, food insecure.
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Almost all households had experienced a drop in income in the past three months, unsteady incomes, or an unexpected expense or rise in expenses in the past three months.

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  • Benefit delays: Nearly 2 in 5 people were awaiting a benefit payment, with most of these waiting up to 6 weeks, though a fifth were waiting 7 weeks or more. A third of delays were for Employment Support Allowance payments, with people assessed as capable of taking steps to move into work in the future particularly at risk of needing a foodbank
  • Income shocks: 2 in 3 people had been hit by a recent ‘income shock’, with most experiencing sharp rises in housing costs or food expenses
  • Low income: The average income of households in the month before being referred to a foodbank was reported at around £320, with 20% of households still needing to pay housing costs. This falls well below low income thresholds, before and after housing costs, and is a fraction of the national average. 16% had no income at all in the last month
 Enigma adds this:

Government welfare cuts blamed for 50% surge in mental health issues among unemployed

Exclusive: Benefit freezes and sanctions ‘are having a toxic impact on mental health’

Rates of severe anxiety and depression among unemployed people have soared by more than 50 per cent in the last four years as the impact of “harsh” austerity policies take their toll, The Independent can reveal.

The UK Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP) said the Government’s reforms of welfare payments were to blame for the rise, as benefit cuts and sanctions “are having a toxic impact on mental health”.

New analysis of data from NHS surveys of GP patients shows that in March 2017, 15.2 per cent of unemployed people said they suffered from severe or extreme anxiety or depression.

This figure has increased steadily from 10.1 per cent in June 2013, and marks a sharper jump than rates of the conditions among the general population, which rose 20 per cent over the same period, from 3.4 per cent of people to 4.1 per cent.

“The devastating impact of the benefits cap for families with children, the freezing of benefits at a time of inflation, and the cutting of benefits for the disabled are putting claimants under terrible mental and financial strain,” said Janet Weisz, the UKCP’s chief executive.

“The constant threat of benefit sanctions only adds to the pressure.”

The austerity measure, widely recognised as a key driver behind forecasts of rising poverty to come, is expected to reduce support by £13bn by 2020, above the Government’s forecast of £9bn, according to research from the House of Commons Library.

People claiming benefits can have their payments cut or stopped entirely if they miss one job centre appointment. The minimum sanction period was increased from one week to four in October 2012.

About a quarter of people on Jobseeker’s Allowance received at least one sanction between 2010 and 2015, according to the National Audit Office, which warned last year that the Department for Work and Pensions is not doing enough to find out how sanctions affect people on benefits.

These reports, signaled originally from the Independent, just about clinch the argument us lot have made here.

End the Benefits Freeze and the Sanctions Regime! 

Written by Andrew Coates

July 17, 2017 at 3:12 pm

Sanctions Equal Food Banks.

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Embedded image permalink

 Picture  above Via:I'm a JSA claimant

 Tuesday 24th of March 2014. Independent.

Iain Duncan Smith has refused to meet with Britain’s biggest food bank charity for over a year – but has instead held discussions with an American investment bank about tackling child poverty.

The Trussell Trust confirmed again today that its chairman Chris Mould had still not been granted a meeting with Iain Duncan Smith, despite reports as far back as 2013 that he had requested one.

But this week the Department for Work and Pensions disclosed under government transparency rules that Mr Duncan Smith had held a meeting about child poverty with the US investment bank JP Morgan Chase.

Thursday 9th April 2015.

Food Banks Concentrated In Areas Hit Hardest By Benefit Sanctions, Study Finds (Guardian).

Austerity policies such as cuts to welfare and local services are driving the rapid spread of food banks in the UK, according to an academic study.

The Oxford University research shows emergency food aid is most concentrated in areas where there are high levels of joblessness and benefit sanctions.

The Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition persistently refused to acknowledge a link between its economic and social security policies and the explosion in food banks.

But the Oxford study, published in the British Medical Journal, shows demand for food parcels is strongest where poverty is accompanied by restrictions on, and reductions in, social assistance.

It concludes: “More food banks are opening in areas experiencing greater cuts in spending on local services and central welfare benefits and higher unemployment rates.”

The study, which uses data supplied by the UK’s biggest food bank network, the Trussell Trust, finds food banks operated in 20 UK council areas in 2009-10. By 2013-14 they existed in 251 areas.

At the same time, the rate of food aid distribution tripled between 2010 and 2013 from about 0.6 food parcels per 100 people to 2.2 per 100.

There were stark variations between local areas, from a low of less than 0.1 food parcels per 100 people in Lichfield, Staffordshire, to a high of eight parcels per 100 in Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

These in part reflected the fact that some areas had more or longer-established food banks, the study found.

Even taking this into account, higher rates of food parcel distribution were still “significantly associated” with welfare cuts and austerity measures.

In particular, the prevalence in an area of benefit sanctions – where unemployed claimants who do not meet jobcentre rules have their payments stopped for at least four weeks – was a strong indicator of food parcel use.

“Food parcel distribution is higher in areas where food banks are more common and better established, but our data also show that the local authorities with greater rates of sanctions and austerity are experiencing greater rates of people seeking emergency food assistance.”

A spokesperson for the Department for Work and Pensions said: “The government spends £94bn a year on working-age benefits and provides a wide range of advice and assistance for anyone in need of additional support.

“The vast majority of benefits are processed on time with improvements being made year on year and the number of sanctions has actually gone down.”

The lead author of the study, Rachel Loopstra, said it was likely to have “underestimated the true burden of food insecurity in the UK” because food aid provision is patchy and data collection is relatively crude.

She called for further research to capture the full extent of food insecurity and food bank use in the UK. One of the last acts of the coalition was to reject a cross-party call for the government to collect robust data on food poverty.

The study is the latest in a string of separate reports linking welfare reform to food bank use, from poverty charities, churches, MPs, and food banks.

Written by Andrew Coates

April 9, 2015 at 3:53 pm

Message to the Labour Party: We need to Get rid of the Benefits Sanctions Regime. Full Stop.

with 103 comments

Hat-tips: Another Fine Mess and Enigma.

Labour Pledges on Benefits:

A Labour government would tackle the root causes of the increase in the use of food banks across the UK, with the party to pledge that they “can never be allowed to become a permanent feature of British society”. Shadow ministers will promise to solve jobcentre benefit delays, halt the proliferation of benefit sanctions, and address low pay in a five-point plan aimed at reducing the number of people forced to turn to food banks.

They will cite Trussell Trust statistics showing that nearly a million people used food banks in 2013-14, figures that are generally assumed to underestimate the number of people who went hungry as a result of food insecurity over the period.

Labour will promise a cross-government approach to end what it calls the “chaos of food policy” under the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition, and will say that a Labour administration will make tackling food bank dependency a specific ministerial responsibility.

A target would be set to reduce the number of people who cite delays in benefits being processed as the prime reason for using food banks. Benefits typically take around 16 working days to process, although backlogs mean many disability benefit claimants have waited for several months.

Studies have shown that benefit sanctions – when payments are stopped for alleged rule infringements – are the prime reason for between 10% and 30% of food bank users being referred for food aid.

Labour says it will abolish jobcentre targets for increasing sanctions, and make hardship funds more quickly available for those who are sanctioned. The party has a longstanding commitment to abolish the bedroom tax, which is also driving food bank use in some areas of the UK.

It has also promised to address low pay, by raising the minimum wage to at least £8 an hour before 2020, promoting a Living Wage and ending zero-hours contracts, so that working people do not suffer the humiliation of being referred to food banks to put meals on the table.

Ending ‘targets’ (which the DWP under their Masters’ instructions lie their way away out of existence in any case), and a vague commitment to deal with ‘benefit sanctions’ is not enough.

What is wrong is not just their ‘proliferation’ but the rotten system that has left one in five claimants punished.

Frankly we don’t need reassuring bed-time words that, “Labour will take a strategic and joined-up approach to food policy to ensure that everybody has the chance to eat safe, nutritious and affordable food, now and in the future. Emergency food aid should remain just that – food banks can never be allowed to become a permanent feature of British society.”

What we need: The benefit sanctions regime should be scrapped

(we appreciate that Frances uses Ipswich Unemployed Action’s phrase, benefit sanctions regime)…

I am not sure how we reached the point where we need an inquiry to establish that stopping a person’s benefits to the level that they can’t feed themselves or their children may be wrong. But here we are, it seems. The recent MPs’ inquiry into the coalition’s benefits sanction system released its findings on Tuesday – a catalogue of cruelty with footnotes to add details of the claimants who have been starved.

The report is damning. As it should be. We have watched a system develop in which it is normal for ordinary men and women to be thrown by their own government into financial and psychological crisis. The scale is staggering. More than 1 million jobseekers had their unemployment benefits stopped last year – and, as the report states, the government has failed to prove this is not “purely punitive”.

Who exactly are we punishing? A disabled, single mother described to the committee the day she was sanctioned for missing an appointment because a flare-up of her hip condition meant she was physically unable to walk or drive. Despite explaining this to The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), she was told she’d receive no money for four weeks. The sanction remained in place for almost three months.

Exactly right: we should boil with rage that somebody is left at her wits’ end because of a punishment more that’s more like a court’s fine for criminal activates than the workings of a welfare system.

This is not being done to the middle classes with savings in the bank. Or those with power who are used to navigating a complex system. It is being done to the people who are already struggling – where a hardship fund exists but the application process is designed to be too difficult for vulnerable people to understand. Or, as the report states, making it so “the people potentially most in need of the hardship system were the least likely to be able to access it”.

Doubleplus right: this is being inflicted on people (and most of us know them, or are them) who have no resources. The bastards are making our sisters and brothers suffer to fit in with Iain Duncan Smith’s plans to ‘reduce’ welfare dependency’. They are pawns in his game.

The MPs’ call that an “independent review of benefit sanctions is urgently needed” seems almost polite for what is going on here. People are literally starving and their crime is that they dare to be poor and unemployed.

It is no surprise that the report concludes there is limited evidence that benefit sanctions actually help people find work. A jobseeker system that has sanctions at its centre is founded on the lie that the unemployed are too lazy to look for work unless they are threatened. The DWP acts as if it is training disobedient dogs.

Stopping the money people need in order to eat is not the purpose of government. The benefit sanctions regime should be scrapped – but let’s not stop there. The culture that created them needs shredding to pieces.

This is the kind of ‘equality’ we are now living in: “In its majestic equality, the law forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, beg in the streets and steal loaves of bread.” (Anatole France).

To conclude the article of Frances Ryan:

Tripleplus right: Get rid of the regime and bring the authors of this system to justice!

 

 

Sanctions, Destitution and Food Banks.

with 43 comments

In a heart-warming tale we learn this week that,

Foodbanks in South Yorkshire are forging better links with local businesses to help them feed the rising number of hungry families using their services.

Andy Niblock, who works at the Sheffield S6 foodbank based at St Thomas’ Church on Gilpin Street, near Shalesmoor, said they were having to feed more and more hungry mouths.

He said: “There is an ongoing increase in the number of referrals from people with food vouchers wanting to use the foodbank.

“We have partnerships with supermarkets and get very generous donations from lots of people like neighbours, families, schools and churches.”

Companies across South Yorkshire are stepping in to help out foodbanks.

The Star.

In a less heart-warming story we hear that,

A vulnerable 60-year-old has been left penniless and dependent on food bank support after his Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) was sanctioned at the end of July while on the Work Programme. South-east Londoner James Dearsley received a letter from the Department for Work and Pensions (below) telling him that he had been sanctioned from July 29 and that his JSA would not be reinstated until October 29. James, who is already in arrears with his council tax, has spent more than three weeks without social security. This withdrawal of money means that he’s already been forced to use Greenwich food bank twice.

From ANN MCGAURAN

 As Johnny Void says,

Understandably much of the rage against the vicious welfare reforms –  which are costing an increasing number of lives – has been aimed at blundering fucking idiot Iain Duncan Smith.

But it is David Cameron who has cheered along whilst the DWP has spent billions driving the poorest people in the country into destitution.  It is David Cameron who has been in charge whilst hundreds of hungry families have queued at foodbanks, or disabled people have been driven from their homes due to the Bedroom Tax.  And it is David Cameron who is ultimately responsible for the deaths of David Clapson, Stephanie Bottrill, Victor CuffJacqueling Harrisand all of those driven to ill health and suicide by his Government’s callous devastation of the social security safety net.

No amount of cockle-warming tales from charitable Business is going to change that.

Food Banks: Ipswich.

with 31 comments

A food bank charity says it has handed out 913,000 food parcels in the last year, up from 347,000 the year before.

The Trussell Trust said a third were given to repeat visitors but that there was a “shocking” 51% rise in clients to established food banks. It said benefit payment delays were the main cause.

In a letter to ministers, more than 500 clergy say the increase is “terrible”.

The government said there was no evidence of a link between welfare reforms and the use of food banks.

However, the Trussell Trust, the largest food bank provider in the UK, said benefits payments had been a particular problem since welfare changes were introduced just over a year ago.

Some 83% of food banks reported that benefits sanctions – when payments are temporarily stopped – had resulted in more people being referred for emergency food.

The second biggest reason, given by 20% of food bank users, was low income.

“In the last year, we’ve seen things get worse, rather than better, for many people on low incomes,” said Chris Mould, chairman of the Trussell Trust.

This is the Ipswich Foodbank.

Families in need

FIND is a Christian-based registered charity that was founded in 1990 to provide emergency assistance to families or individuals affected by poverty or dispossession. FIND befriends without judging and gives support to those in need. The charity started over 20 years ago by Maureen Reynel MBE has grown to be an essential support mechanism in the local community.

Food Bank

Our food bank fund targets work to establish and distribute food to people in need. This is a key part of the work of FI…

Readers of Ipswich Unemployed Action may be interested to know what this group’s approach is to fighting the cuts which lie behind the rise in Food bank users.

Here it is:

 

FIND Quiz 2014 Flyerda

 

Bless!

 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

April 19, 2014 at 10:15 am