Almost 1 million Brits using food banks – Trussell Trust

Reuters / Suzanne Plunkett
The number of British people relying on food banks is expected to reach one million, despite a huge increase in the number of people in work.

Figures from the Trussell Trust, the UK’s biggest provider of food banks, will be used by Labour in the run up to the general election next month as evidence that the benefits of economic recovery are not being felt by families on low incomes.

Despite two million more people being in work now than in 2010, the number of people using food banks has soared. In 2005-06 2,814 people were given three days of emergency food by the Trussell Trust, by 2013-14 that had shot up to 913,138. Figures for 2014-15 are set to be published on Wednesday and are expected to show another increase.

Labour is bracing itself to jump on the figures, as surveys have shown that the main reason people rely on food banks are due to delays in receiving state benefits as well as changes to benefits – changes that people blame the Conservative government for.

READ MORE: Welfare cuts, benefit sanctions causing hunger, food insecurity – Oxford study

Rachel Reeves, Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, has written to Prime Minister David Cameron challenging him to promise to reduce the number of people using food banks during the next parliament in 2015-2020.

“Under your Government, too many working people are being paid so little that they can’t afford to feed their families – with 1.5 million more in jobs paying less than the living wage and a huge rise in the number of people on zero-hours contracts. And too many people who should be supported by our social security system are being let down by it – with delays in benefit payments, unfair benefits sanctions and the bedroom tax pushing people to the doors of food banks,” the letter reads.

Labour has also accused Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith of living in a “parallel universe” after he suggested re-naming zero hour contracts, “flexible hours contracts”.

“We don’t need to rename zero-hours contracts; we need to ban exploitative zero-hours contracts, and that’s what the next Labour government will do,” said Ed Milliband the party leader.

READ MORE: Millions of impoverished Britons malnourished – report

The Conservatives have defended the changes they have made to the welfare system under their policies of austerity.

“We know that many families are facing tough times as a result of the great recession of recent years. When people are struggling it is right that both government and organisations in the community offer support. Unlike Labour, we have allowed Jobcentres to signpost people to food banks. We are also helping to provide emergency financial help to those in desperate need and tackling the real causes of poverty by getting people into work and tackling welfare dependency,” said a Conservative spokeswoman.

There are also some Tories who blame the increase in the number of people using food banks on the food banks themselves, saying that increased supply is fuelling demand.

But the food banks themselves say this is not the case and they represent the "tip of the iceberg” of a real and growing need.