Ipswich Unemployed Action.

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Posts Tagged ‘Food Banks

Stop and FIX Universal Credit day of action, Saturday 2nd of December.

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Like many people I buy the ‘I’ Newspaper.

This story today gives lots of reasons – if we needed them – why everybody should be protesting against Universal Credit this Saturday.

Evictions, poverty and stress: Life for single parent families on universal credit

Hunger, anxiety, shame: the universal credit ‘catastrophe’ is hitting lone parents hardest of all. Emily Goddard meets mothers facing a grim Christmas. ‘I have to borrow from my child’s paper round money to top up the meter,’ one tells her.

Lily can smell the cigarette smoke from the next room along the corridor seeping through the crack under the door of her Croydon bed-and-breakfast room that she shares with her seven-year-old daughter. They have spent nearly a month here already after becoming homeless when they were evicted from their privately rented home in another part of the town because Lily couldn’t make the rent payments while waiting for her first universal credit payment.

Every day the 39-year-old returns from working her two low-pay, part-time jobs with her daughter to this room, which contains two single beds. The pair uses a potty in the room to go to the toilet because they don’t have a bathroom of their own – nor a shower, kitchen or washing facilities – and all the communal rooms that are shared by the other 40 to 50 residents are filthy.

Sometimes the noise is overwhelming, with doors banging, arguments raging on and “sex sounds”. And, as if the smell of cigarette smoke hanging heavy in the air was not bad enough, there have been people rolling and smoking joints in the kitchen that every resident in this wholly inadequate emergency accommodation has to share.

If you need more reasons the Mirror has them.

Universal Credit claimants face ‘disaster’ as helpline shuts for most of Christmas

MP Frank Field, who leads the Commons Work and Pensions Committee, has written to the Prime Minister as he warned there’ll be further ‘guerilla war’.

Stop and FIX Universal Credit day of action

Saturday 02 December 2017 at 08:00-20:00

Fix universal credit ident

This Christmas will be cancelled for thousands of families claiming the new benefit Universal Credit. Despite knowing Universal Credit causes serious problems for claimants, Theresa May’s Tory government is pressing ahead and rolling it out to thousands of people who will have to wait weeks to receive any money.

Claimants are descending into debt, relying on food banks, getting into rent arrears and in many cases getting evicted from their homes because of in- built problems with Universal Credit.

Take action NOW against Universal Credit

On Saturday 2 December 2017 Unite Community will be staging a national day of action against Universal Credit to send a message to the Tory government that they must STOP & FIX Universal Credit before rolling it out and further or thousands of families face a cold a hungry Christmas and the threat of losing their homes.

Who gets Universal Credit

Universal Credit replaces five benefits – child tax credit, housing benefit, income support, income-based jobseeker’s allowance, income-related employment and support allowance and working tax credit.

Seven million households will be affected, including over one million low paid part-time workers. For the first time ever people in work could face being sanctioned (having their benefits stopped) if they don’t prove to the job centre that they’re searching for better paid work or more hours.

What needs fixing

Unite is calling on the government to:

  • Abandon the long waits for claimants to receive money
  • Allow people to apply for Universal Credit in a jobcentre, not just online
  • Provide people with better help when the system fails them
  • Pay landlords directly to stop people getting into rent arrears and losing their homes
  • End benefit sanctions for in-work and out-of-work claimants
  • Stop payments going to one named member of a household
  • Make work pay – Universal Credit takes 63p in every £1 people earn

Tell us your story

Get in touch and tell us about your Universal Credit stories. Send your stories to Liane.groves@unitetheunion.org

Sat 11:00 · The Giles Statue · Ipswich
All welcome, this is an activity for everyone who is concerned about the impact of Universal Credit, not just union members.

Contacts and actions in your area

Contact your local community coordinator and get involved on Saturday 2 December.

REGION AREA TIME ADDRESS
North East Yorkshire & Humber Ashington 10.00-11.30 Argos, Wansbeck Square, Station Road, Ashington, NE63 9XL
John Coan Barnsley 12.00-13.30 May Day Green, Outside Barnsley Town Hall, Barnsley, S70 1RH
0113 236 4830 Consett  10.00-12.00 Unit 4, 26 Newmarket Street, Consett, County Durham, DH8 5LQ
07711 375536 Grimsby 10.00  1 DEC Freshney Place Shopping Centre, Grimsby, DN31 1ED
John.coan@unitetheunion.org Huddersfield 14.00-15.00 Huddersfield bus station, Upperhead Row, HD1 2JL
Leeds 11.00-13.00 Outside Debenhams, 121 Briggate, Leeds, LS1 6LX
Middlesbrough 14.00-15.00 Middlesbrough Town Hall, Albert Road, Middlesbrough, TS1 2QJ
Newcastle 11.00-12.30 Sports Direct, 15/21 Northumberland Road, Newcastle NE1 7AL
Redcar 10.00-12.00 Redcar High Street, Redcar, TS10 3BZ
London & Eastern Central London from 14.00 Costa Coffee: Oxford Street and turn left on to Great Portland Street.
Dave Condliffe Barking, Dagenham & Havering 10.00-16.00 Chequer’s Corner to highlight how important Dagenham JobCentre
0208 800 4281 Brent 12.00-14.00 Neasden Parade Kilburn Unemployment WC
07791 113806 Cambridge All day Mill Road Winter Fair
David.condliffe@unitetheunion.org  Clacton-on-Sea 10.30-14.00 Brotherhood Hall
Colchester 16.00-18.00 Town Hall, Colchester High Street
Essex 11.00-14.00 Waltham Abbey
Herts & Beds 13.00- St Mary’ Square, leafleting in Watford High Street
Lambeth 11.00-13.00 Brixton tube station
Norfolk 11.00-14.00 Magdalen Street flyover, Anglia Square
Peterborough 11.45-14.00 Peterborough Bus station within central shopping area
Suffolk 11.00-14.00 Suffolk Unite Office
Tower Hamlets 10.00-13.00 Whitechapel Road by tube
West London TBC
South East Bracknell 12.30-14.30 Princess Square, by the War Memorial
Kelly Tomlinson Crawley 13.00-14.30 Crawley, Queens Square (by old bandstand site)
02392 824 514 Dover 10.00-12.00 Dover Biggin Street
07941 342835 Eastbourne 11.00-13.00 Bankers corner, Terminus Road, Cornfield Road
Kelly.tomlinson@unitetheunion.org Gillingham 11.00-13.00 Outside the Conservative club, 122-124 High Street
Hastings 12.00-14.00 Town centre opposite Lloyds, joint stall with the LP.
Herne Bay 10.00-12.00 Corner of Mortimer Street / Sea Street
Hove 13.00-15.00 Hove town hall, Church Rd/Tilsbury Place corner
Milton Keynes 12.00-14.00 Central MK, outside McDonalds
Oxford 11.00-13.00 Carfax tower, junction of Cornmarket Street, High Street, Queen Street and St. Aldgate’s
Portsmouth 14.00-16.00 Commercial Road, by the Fountain
Sittingbourne 10.00-12.00 High Street entrance to The Forum
Slough 10.30-13.00 Slough Square, outside the cinema
Southampton 12.00-14.00 Meet at The Bargate midday
South West Bath 11.00- Xmas Market, meeting point Bath Spa Station  BA1 1SU
Brett Sparkes Barnstaple TBC
01793 836480 Bridgwater 11.00-13.00 Cornhill, Bridgwater TA6 3BU
07718 666593 Bristol 11.00- Fountains (opposite the Hippodrome) St Augustine’s Parade, Bristol BS1 4UZ
brett.sparkes@unitetheunion.org  Bude 11.00-14.00 The Triangle, Belle Vue EX23 8JJ
Gloucester 11.00- Gloucester Eastgate St. GL1 1PA
Minehead 11.00- Iceland The Avenue, Minehead TA24 5AZ
Truro 11.00-14.00 Lemon Quay TR1 2PU
Yeovil 11.00-14.00 Middle Street, Yeovil, Somerset, BA20 1LS
Ireland Belfast 13.00- DfC HQ, Causway Exchange, Bedford Street, Belfast
Albert Hewitt Derry TBC Derry Foyle Jobs and Benefits office
02890 020418
07711 375537
albert.hewitt2@unitetheunion.org
Scotland TBC
Jamie Caldwell
0845 604 4384
07711 376562
jamie.caldwell@unitetheunion.org
North West  Cumbria TBC TBC
Sheila Coleman Ellesmere Port 11.00-14.00 York Rd, Ellesmere Port, CH65 0DB
0151 203 1907 Lancashire TBC TBC
07711 375538 Liverpool 11.00-14.00 Williamson Square, Liverpool city centre
sheila.coleman@unitetheunion.org Manchester TBC TBC
Wirral 11.00-16.00 Open day for advice on Universal Credit, St Anne Street, Birkenhead, CH41 3SU
Midlands  Chesterfield TBC Chesterfield Unite Community, New Square
Shaun Pender East Staffs 10.00-11.45 Outside Primark in Burton town centre
01332 548400 Northampton 10.00-13.00 The entrance of the Grosvenor Centre Northampton town centre
07885 803449 Nottingham TBC Brian Clough Statue, Junction of Queen & King St, Off Market Sq, Nottingham, NG1 2BL
shaun.pender@unitetheunion.org Stoke/North Staffs 11.00-13.00 The Iron market, Newcastle-under Lyme town centre
Wolverhampton City centre
Wales  Aberystwyth 11.00-13.00 TBC
Ian Swan Cardiff 11.00-13.00 Cardiff central library
02920 394521 Merthyr 11.00-13.00 Merthyr town centre
ian.swan@unitetheunion.org Rhyl 11.00-13.00 TBC
Wrexham 11.00-13.00 Wrexham town centre
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Written by Andrew Coates

November 29, 2017 at 3:36 pm

On Food Banks: Don’t Institutionalise Food Poverty.

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Image result for food banks

Institutionalised Food Poverty.

The will to feed people who are hungry is one of the most basic reasons to have some hope in human beings.

The ‘Better Angels of our Nature’, showing sympathy for others, still comes out, for all that we are pushed to hate and selfish ideas.

But…

Making concern for other people, or – let’s be honest –  a dose of pity,  a substitute for the right to social security is not a good idea.

We don’t have to be the philosopher Kant to see that if eating is made conditional on the generosity of others, we are making people dependent on the Good Will of Others. Whether it’s done out of true moral obligation or from a wish to seem good, we are still dependent on others.

A right is something we claim against an institution, and stands the same for all, not provided by a market of charitable initiatives.

Our contributors and the papers are full of stories about the rise in Food Bank demand.

The idea of the Welfare State as a “safe home” for people in difficulty is replaced by concerns about the voluntary  provision of something to eat is weakened.

At the foundation of the Welfare State, Beveridge talked of ending Want,

Poverty was seen as the key social problem which affected all others. In 1946 the National Insurance Act was passed which extended the Liberal Act of 1911 to include all adults. This provided comprehensive insurance against most eventualities.

It provided sickness and unemployment benefit, retirement pension and widow and maternity benefit. It was said that social provision was made for citizens from the ‘cradle to the grave’, catering for their needs from their time of birth to their death.

Beverdige did not talk of bringing back 1930s Soup Kitchens.

But in the US, as this article pointed  out a couple of years ago, they never got away from the 30s level of ‘welfare’.

In the U.S., we take it for granted that government help is not enough to live on, that private charities and philanthropic donations fill the holes in income, housing and health care that our welfare system leaves gaping. Disaster relief, meals on wheels, homeless shelters — for us they’re just part of the economic landscape, the extra stitches in our safety net.

But in Britain, the idea of a significant portion of the population being fed, clothed and housed by private charities is genuinely new, at least in the post-war era, and the British haven’t decided how they feel about it. Are privately run social services a scandal of government neglect, or simply a country taking responsibility for its runaway spending?

 

This piece, in 2012,  makes some of the points we need to think about again.

Guardian 2012.

David Cameron recently said he “welcomed” the work done by food banks and, for many in his party, their growing presence is a happy embodiment of the concept of the “big society”. In a debate on food poverty earlier this year, Caroline Spelman, secretary of state for environment and food, described them as an “excellent example” of this in action.

For others, the growth is a reflection of a new approach to providing assistance to people in real need. Whereas previously this was a service that the state would have provided, now feeding large numbers of people who are not able to feed themselves is being subcontracted out to charities. Those who have scrutinised the progress of the Welfare Reform Act, say this move from state to charity reflects the general direction of travel.

Once these services move beyond the realms of state provision, there are potential problems – they lose neutrality, some uncertainty comes with initiatives that are volunteer-run, the food on offer is (despite the best efforts of the Trussell Trust) idiosyncratic, the religious environment in which food is provided raises questions for some recipients. It becomes charity rather than basic state support, and for many this brings a degree of unease.

Stephen Timms, shadow work and pensions secretary, says it is a “pretty worrying reflection of what’s going on in the country, when people are dependent on these charitable handouts. My worry is that we are really just at the start of cutting back the benefits system and already a large number of people are not able to to buy food for their families. This shouldn’t be happening on the scale that it is now happening.”

Manchester Labour MP, and former head of the Child Poverty Action Group, Kate Green describes the growth of food banks as a disgrace. “I feel a real burning anger about them,” she says. “People are very distressed at having to ask for food; it’s humiliating and distressing.”

In fact what’s happened is that we have institutionalised food poverty. (Food banks don’t solve food poverty. The UK must not institutionalise them 2014).

Update:

 

Written by Andrew Coates

August 29, 2017 at 11:25 am

Posted in Cuts, DWP, Food Banks, Sanctions

Tagged with , ,

Food Banks Use Soars.

with 100 comments

 

Image result for food banks uk 2017

It’s hard not to notice a flurry of stories about Food Banks in recent days.

Appeal for baked beans as benefit changes sees demand for food banks soar.

THE Government has been criticised after a Somerset food bank made an urgent appeal for baked beans.

Ann Gibbs, coordinator of West Somerset Food Cupboard, says it has seen a huge rise in demand over the last year which has hit their stocks so hard they are running out of tinned beans and other non-perishable food.   She said: “These are families who can just about manage during term time, but are struggling to make ends meet while children are not at school.

“For the first time ever, we recently ran out of baked beans.”

Chard and Ilminster News.14th of August

 

Nottingham food bank sees ‘surge’ in donations after almost running out of stock

The centre says they saw “an upsurge in offers of help” after last week’s appeal.

One of the largest food banks in the city almost ran out of food last week – but it has now thanked the community after a surge of donations.

Mount Zion food bank, in Radford, was the busiest it had ever been due to the summer holidays increasing the number of families turning to them for help – a pattern seen across the city.

But now the centre says they saw “an upsurge in offers of help” after last week’s appeal.

Mount Zion Church is under particular strain because of its central location making it very popular, while it also lacks major local sponsors.

Nottingham Post 14th of August.

 

The rise of the working poor and food banks in our wealthy nation. How a Huddersfield food bank has seen a 17-fold increase in demand – and why.

Alan Clarke, head of European fixed income strategy at Scotiabank, is forecasting CPI to hit 2.8 per cent, driven in part by rising price tags on food.

He said: “Food price falls came to a fairly abrupt end in the aftermath of the Brexit vote, particularly on the back of the sharp fall in the GBP exchange rate.

“Indeed, food prices have risen for seven of the last eight months – with last month being the exception, showing a 0.2 per cent month-on-month fall.

“Overall, we view last month’s downward adjustment in inflation as temporary and the peak in inflation is yet to be reached.”

End the Benefit Freeze!

Written by Andrew Coates

August 15, 2017 at 10:29 am

More Calls to Shelve Universal Credit.

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Image result for universal credit

Mass Meeting of Happy UC Claimants at Christmas.

You wonder when the number of criticisms and calls for shelve Universal Credit will sink into the very thick head of Rt Hon David Gauke MP.

This is the kind of thing that he’s interested in,

“I live in Chorleywood, am an avid cricket and football supporter and enjoy the countryside around south west Hertfordshire…”

These are his good works by which ye shall know him,

David is a Patron of the Hospice of St Francis, the Watford Peace Hospice and the Three Rivers Museum.  He writes regularly for the Croxley, Rickmansworth and Chorleywood editions of My Local News magazines and The Berkhamsted & Tring Gazette.

These are some of the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Latest Tweets.

Apparently Tosspot, as his close mates call him, is now taking a keen interest in Venezuela, a subject on which he considers himself an expert.

His most recent stuff if re-tweets from other experts, like Frank Field, but this is the man’s own considered judgement.

People find the humourless git so unfunny that even his Official Parody site gave up the ghost in March.

Meanwhile while he fiddles Universal Credit burns.

Universal credit shake-up will send poor families to food banks for Christmas, warn Labour MPs

‘In many cases, recipients have had to wait seven weeks for payment of the benefits’

The expansion of the universal credit benefits shake-up will send families to food banks for Christmas, Labour MPs are warning.

A group of 30 Opposition MPs is urging the Government to shelve the introduction of the new benefit in about 50 new areas until next year, to avoid festive hardship.

Universal credit is meant to streamline the social security system but has been plagued by problems in trial areas where it is already up and running.

Citizens Advice has warned that claimants are being plunged into debt, with four in 10 people having to wait more than six weeks to receive their first payment.

Now the Labour MPs, from areas where the shake-up is due to be introduced this autumn, have written to David Gauke, the Work and Pensions Secretary, calling for delay.

“There is a real worry that the introduction of universal credit, at this time, will cause extreme hardship for many people in vulnerable situations, exacerbated by the financial burdens of the festive period,” they state.

Also on the excellent Welfare Weekly site: MPs urge government to delay universal credit rollout

MPs’ letter calls for extension of universal credit to be postponed until next year to avoid people suffering Christmas hardship.

Here is the letter:

We are concerned about the Department for Work and Pensions’ proposed rollout of universal credit (UC) in our constituencies during November and December. There is a real worry that the introduction of UC at this time will cause extreme hardship for many people in vulnerable situations, exacerbated by the financial burdens of the festive period. We understand that the proposed changes were designed to make the social security system simpler, more reactive to individuals’ issues and more efficient. However, evidence from other parts of the country where UC has been introduced already, shows that it is far from the efficient system trailed. In many cases, recipients have had to wait seven weeks for payment of the benefits. This puts an incredible strain on individuals and we have seen in other areas an increased use of food parcels during this period. There are also issues around the removal of the severe disability premium, which leaves many disabled people in a precarious position. In addition, although there is a provision for crisis loans, the mandatory paying back of £150 in three lump sums of £50 adds a further strain on individuals who are already in a difficult financial situation. Overall, the rigid nature of this approach can exacerbate the debt of those in receipt of UC.

The current timetable will cause our residents severe hardship over the months which are most financially difficult. We urge David Gauke, secretary of state for work and pensions, to instruct his department not to roll this system out in November and December, but look to a date later in 2018.
Laura Pidcock
Alison McGovern
Bambos Charalambos
Caroline Lucas
Carolyn Harris
Chris Law
Eleanor Smith
Fiona Onasanya
Geraint Davies
Helen Goodman
Helen Hayes
Ian Mearns
Jack Dromey
Jess Phillips
Jon Cruddas
John Cryer
John Mann
Justin Madders
Kate Osamor
Kevan Jones
Khalid Mahmood
Margaret Greenwood
Mike Amesbury
Preet Gill
Richard Burden
Roger Godsiff
Stella Creasy
Steve Pound
Tonia Antonazzi
Tracy Brabin
Virendra Sharma

We await Gaucke’s reply.

When he has the time…

Written by Andrew Coates

August 7, 2017 at 4:05 pm

Food Banks, ‘Ethical’ Lords and Lady Bountiful Rush to Help.

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Image result for food banks

Get Rid of System that Creates Food Bank Demand. 

I might be alone in this – though this is doubtful – but isn’t this distasteful?

A Tyneside company is aiming to turn Black Friday into Give Back Friday with a donation to a food bank on orders received during the discounting period.

EthicalSuperstore.com will donate a grocery item to the Newcastle West End food bank for every order it receives over £30 on Friday.

The Gateshead firm is hoping to repeat the success of a similar offer it ran last year, when it donated a total of 1,576 grocery items worth more than £1,500 to the busy food bank.

Peter Leatherland, of EthicalSuperstore.com, said: “Black Friday has become synonymous with crowds of people clamouring to get discounted technology products at well-known high street stores and supermarkets, but we want to do something a little different.

“Our feel-good Friday provides customers with 20% off products as well as giving something back to the community through donations, helping those families who truly need it.

“We want to raise awareness of food banks, hopefully encouraging our customers to think about others and perhaps donate to their own local food banks and good causes whilst hunting for bargains during Black Friday.”

More in the Chronicle.

Nobody doubts the scale of the problem:

More than 500,000 three day emergency food parcels have been distributed to people in crisis in the first half of 2016/17 – over 188,500 to children.

Between April and September 2016, Trussell Trust foodbanks across the UK distributed 519,342 three day emergency food supplies to people in crisis compared to 506,369 during the same period last year. 188,584 of these went to children.

Trussell Trust CEO, David McAuley says: “As the number of emergency food parcels provided to people by foodbanks rises once again, it’s clear that more can be done to get people back on their feet faster.”

But why does it exist?

Oh Yes…

Benefit sanctions forcing people to use food banks, study confirms

Oxford University research shows link between sanctions and use of charity parcels, a pattern ministers refuse to accept

Guardian 27th of October. 

This was Damian – ‘Gig economy’ – Green’s response (FT November the 16th),

Under the existing system, hardship payments are available to cover day-to-day living costs but for many jobseekers they cannot be claimed until 14 days after a sanction has been applied.

Only certain categories of people can claim those payments, for example if they have children or a long-term health condition. Mr Green’s initiative will add homeless people and those with a mental health condition — an estimated 10,000 — to those who can claim straight away.

We need sanctions, and I don’t agree with those who would abolish them,” he said. “But I am always keen to improve the system.”

If you want to reduce the demand for Food Banks start by getting Labour to make getting rid of sanctions a priority.

Abolish the Sanctions System!

 

Written by Andrew Coates

November 25, 2016 at 3:59 pm

Corbyn Tells PM May to See ‘I, Daniel Blake’.

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Corbyn Urges PM to See I, Daniel Blake.

During Prime Minister’s Question Time on Wednesday this happened (BBC)

Jeremy Corbyn asked Theresa May why she was bringing in cuts to Universal Credit.

The Labour leader said her predecessor David Cameron had abandoned cuts to tax credits, but these changes were now being brought back via Universal Credit.

But the prime minister defended changes to benefits and she said it was “important to value work”, and that struggling families were struggling to pay for the benefits of others.

The Guardian summarises,

Today’s exchange was almost wholly around benefits. Jeremy Corbyn recommended that the prime minister should “support British cinema” by going to see Ken Loach’s I, Daniel Blake during a series of questions about benefit sanctions, universal credit cuts and cuts to the employment support allowance for disabled people. He accused Theresa May of “imposing poverty on people” under the guise of helping them find work. In response, May said Labour was in favour of no sanctions and no obligation on claimants to prove they were unfit for work, and that the benefits system needed to also be fair to the people who pay for it. She said Labour had lost touch with its working-class support and the Tories were now the true party of the working classes.

They add,

Memorable lines

It’s time we ended this institutional barbarity against the most vulnerable people in the system.

Jeremy Corbyn urges May to undo benefit sanctions.

The Labour party is drifting away from the views of working-class people. It is this party that knows how to support them.

May accuses Labour of abandoning its core supporters

The Mirror observes,

Prime Minister’s Questions. She got her knickers in a twist when she somehow called an MP Jeremy Corbyn’s son.

She then brazenly claimed the Tories were the party of the working class when she was told to end cruel benefit sanctions and watch hit film I, Daniel Blake.

The Guardian further reports,

Corbyn urges May to see I, Daniel Blake to gain insight to life on welfare.

Jeremy Corbyn is urging Labour members to attend a series of special screenings of the campaigning Ken Loach film I, Daniel Blake, in the run-up to Philip Hammond’s autumn statement, in an effort to rally support against planned cuts to disability benefits.

The film, currently on release in cinemas, details Blake’s struggles with the complex bureaucracy of the benefits system, and was made after the director researched the lives of welfare claimants.

At Wednesday’s prime minister’s questions in the House of Commons, the Labour leader suggested May should “support British cinema” by watching the film, to give her an insight into the struggles faced by the “just managing” families she has pledged to help.

Corbyn will attend a special screening of the film on 17 November – less than a week before the autumn statement – as will a series of other frontbenchers, including shadow home secretary Diane Abbott, and shadow chancellor John McDonnell.

McDonnell said: “I, Daniel Blake was one of the most moving films I’ve ever seen so I’m very pleased we have teamed up with Ken Loach to urge people to go and watch it at these special screenings taking place before the autumn statement.

“We’re living in an I, Daniel Blake society as a result of having the Tories in power for six years. The government should be caring for sick and disabled people, not making their lives worse.

In particular, Labour is calling for Hammond to scrap cuts to the employment and support allowance. ESA, which goes to sick and disabled people, who either can’t work or are trying to find employment, is due to be reduced by £30 for some new claimants from April next year. Labour has said it would reverse the policy.

The ESA cut is one of a series of planned reductions in benefits for future years set out by George Osborne before he was removed as chancellor by May in June.

Damian Green, the new work and pensions secretary, has signalled that there will be no fresh cuts in the welfare budget; but his department have insisted they will go ahead with reductions set in train by Osborne, including £3bn a year due to be trimmed off the cost of universal credit.

Tory backbenchers have expressed concerns about the potential impact of some of the changes on poorer families, with backbencher Heidi Allen leading calls for the UC cuts to be reversed – a cause that has also won the support of Green’s predecessor, Iain Duncan Smith.

Duncan Smith has called on Hammond to use his autumn statement, which will reveal the first estimates from the independent office for budget responsibility of the economic impact of Brexit, to cancel planned tax cuts, and spend the money saved on making UC more generous.

Corbyn challenged the prime minister on the various benefits cuts in the House of Commons. She responded by claiming Labour would like to see “no assessments, no sanctions and unlimited welfare” – an assertion later denied by Corbyn’s spokesman

New Study: Benefit sanctions forcing people to use food banks, which “should not become an informal substitution for the social safety net.”

with 59 comments

Image result for food banks uk

“Should not become an informal substitution for the social safety net” says Report.

Few things are more degrading than having to reply on food hand outs because of poverty, and specifically, as the result of having people’s benefits cut or stopped.

With benefit sanctions in the news, after the release of Ken Loach’s film I, Daniel Blake, this is very timely.

Benefit sanctions, whereby social security claimants have their payments stopped for at least a month as a punishment for supposedly breaching strict jobcentre rules, are a key driver of hunger and food bank use, according to a study carried out by Oxford University academics.

Reports the Guardian.

The Trussell Trust, which funded the report, says today,

  • University of Oxford researchers analysed four years of Trussell Trust foodbank data and found an increase in 10 Jobseeker’s Allowance sanctions per 100,000 adults was associated with five more adults needing foodbanks
  • In response, The Trussell Trust, which runs a network of over 420 foodbanks, calls for a true ‘yellow card’ warning system to stop people falling into crisis

Research by the University of Oxford, released today, finds a “strong, dynamic relationship” between sanctioning and food bank usage: there is a link between people having their benefit payments stopped and an increase in referrals to foodbanks.

Researchers analysing Trussell Trust foodbank data from across 259 local authorities between 2012 and 2015 found that as the rate of sanctioning increased within local authorities, the rate of foodbank use also increased.

Even after accounting for differences between local authorities, their modelling showed that for every 10 additional sanctions applied in each quarter of the year, on average five more adults would be referred to Trussell Trust foodbanks in the area. As sanctioning decreased, foodbank use also decreased, which the report suggests is evidence of a strong link between sanctioning and people not having enough money to meet basic needs.

The findings are from the first phase of a 16-month study into how trends in foodbank usage over the last four years relate to changes in the economy and welfare system. Looking across local authorities and over time using aggregated quarterly data, researchers examined whether changes in sanctioning rates within local authorities related to changes in foodbank usage.

Researchers built a longitudinal dataset of local authorities containing quarterly adult foodbank usage, data on foodbank operations, and government data on the number of people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance, the number of sanctions applied to Jobseeker’s Allowance claimants, unemployment and employment rates, and population size. These models control for differences in characteristics between local authorities and time trends, ruling out other potential explanations for the relationship observed.

The report says foodbanks in The Trussell Trust network experienced a spike in numbers after 2013, when over one million sanctions were applied. Changes to the sanction regime and Jobseeker’s Allowance at this time included increasing benefit conditionality for claimants, sanctions imposed immediately for failure to meet these conditions, and longer sanctioning penalties, starting from a minimum of four weeks to up to three years*. Foodbanks distributed three times as much over the period – from just under 350,000 three-day emergency food supplies in 2012/13 to around 913,000 in 2013/14. Even after accounting for new foodbanks opening, this spike was evident across the network, says the research.

Report lead author Dr Rachel Loopstra, from the University of Oxford, said:

“These findings show clear evidence of sanctions being linked to economic hardship and hunger, as we see a close relationship between sanctioning rates and rates of foodbank usage across local authorities in the UK.’

In response to this new evidence, The Trussell Trust proposes changes to the current ‘yellow card’ warning being piloted by the Department for Work and Pensions in Scotland, and calls for the recommendations to be extended across the UK. Currently, the system in Scotland gives notice a sanction is pending and 14 days to appeal. The Trussell Trust recommend a warning system with a non-financial ‘yellow card’ penalty to first try and engage the person in a constructive dialogue without the immediate threat of financial penalty.

Adrian Curtis, Foodbank Network Director for The Trussell Trust, said today,

“The findings from this ground-breaking study by the University of Oxford tell us once and for all: the more people sanctioned, the more people need foodbanks. We now need to listen to the stories behind the statistics: families go hungry, debt spiral, and the heating doesn’t go on even as temperatures drop.

“There is much to be hopeful about – we’re very pleased to see sanctioning rates have decreased and that the new Secretary of State has announced that work capability re-assessments for ESA claimants with incurable or progressive illnesses have been scrapped. However, we still see people being referred to our foodbanks who have been sanctioned unfairly. A true ‘yellow card’ system, which gives people a non-financial warning first, would mean less people thrown into crisis and ultimately, less people needing foodbanks.”

You can see the paper here:  The impact of benefit sanctioning on food insecurity: a dynamic cross-area study of food bank usage in the UK

Household food security, which may be compromised by short-term income shocks, is a key determinant of health. Since 2012, the UK witnessed marked increases in the rate of ‘sanctions’ applied to unemployment insurance claimants, which stop payments to claimants for a minimum of four weeks. In 2013, over 1 million sanctions were applied, potentially leaving people facing economic hardship and driving them to use food banks. Here we test this hypothesis by linking data from the Trussell Trust Foodbank Network with records on sanctioning rates across 259 local authorities in the UK. After accounting for local authority differences and time trends, as the rate of sanctioning increased by 10 per 100,000 adults, the rate of adults fed by foodbanks by an additional 3.36 adults per 100,000 (95% CI: 1.71 to 5.01). The availability of food distribution sites affected how tightly sanctioning and food bank usage were associated (p<0.001 for interaction term), such that in areas with few distribution sites, rising sanctions led to smaller increases in Trussell Trust food bank usage. Sanctioning appears to be closely linked with rising need for emergency food assistance, but the impact of sanctioning on food insecurity is likely not fully reflected in available data. There is a need to monitor household food insecurity in the UK to fully understand the impact of government policies on this outcome.

These are  important parts of their conclusion:

The recent decline in sanctioning is a positive sign, and has likely contributed to the decline in the numbers of people using food banks within local authorities in 2015/16. Yet, in 2015, there were still about 358,000 sanctions applied to JSA claimants. We also observed that declines in sanctioning were not as strongly linked to declines in food bank usage, explaining why the decline in food bank usage has not been as fast as the decline in sanctions. This could be because experiences of sanctions trigger longer-term financial crises, such as debt accumulation.

And,

Our findings also highlight the limitations of any charitable food support network’s ability to eradicate food insecurity. These networks are increasingly relied upon to fill in the gaps in welfare support but, by relying on volunteers and donated food and space to operate, they will vary in their capacity to address hunger in their area. As such, they are not equipped to address these gaps in every part of the country and are less able to respond quickly to changes in need. Food banks are not an adequate solution to the problem of hunger, and they should not become an informal substitution for the social safety net.

The Independent notes,

The Department for Work and Pensions dismissed the findings as “misleading”.

“The reasons for food bank use are complex, and it is misleading to link them to any one issue,” said a government spokesperson.

“We’re clear that work is the best route out of poverty, and the number of people in employment is at a record high, up by 2.7 million since 2010.”

They said £90 billion was spent on working age benefits “to ensure a strong safety net”.

One further point:

Written by Andrew Coates

October 27, 2016 at 3:13 pm

Posted in DWP, Food Banks, Sanctions

Tagged with , ,