Record numbers relying on food banks, says charity
A record near-1.6 million emergency supplies have been handed out by food banks in the past year, with a third going to children, figures reveal.
The Trussell Trust said the number of three-day supplies given out across the UK had "soared" by 73% in the past five years, it was reported yesterday.
The main reasons for people turning to a food bank were benefits not covering the cost of living, or delays in payment of benefits, said the trust.
Half of food bank referrals were because of delays linked to Universal Credit (UC), according to the charity.
It said the Government should end the five-week wait for a first UC payment to help reduce reliance on food banks.
The number of food parcels handed out at the trust's 1,200 sites totalled 1,583,668 in the year to March - a near 20% increase on the previous 12 months.
It is also the most since the charity opened 20 years ago.
The 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.
"We know this situation can be fixed - that's why we're campaigning to create a future where no one needs a food bank."
She continued: "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."
The chief executive added: "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."