Three quarters of people referred to Trussell Trust food banks report that they or a member of their household is Disabled

Tue,4 July 2023
News Benefits Money
New landmark UK research by the Trussell Trust in its most in-depth study to date on hunger reveals its causes, impacts and who is affected.

In the last financial year, food banks in the Trussell Trust network saw the highest ever level of need, distributing close to 3 million emergency food parcels — including more than a million to children. This is the most parcels the network has ever distributed in a single year. However, it says that this food bank use is just “the tip of the iceberg” as its research finds that one in seven people face hunger across the UK due to a lack of money. The food charity highlights that 14% of all UK adults (or their households) have experienced food insecurity in the 12 months to mid-2022, equating to an estimated 11.3 million people.  This means that – at some point over this period – they have run out of food and have been unable to afford more, and/or reduced meal size, eaten less, gone hungry or lost weight due to lack of money.  However, despite the growth in the number of food parcels provided by the Trussell Trust network of food banks and independent providers, more than two thirds of those experiencing food insecurity have not received food aid.  Food bank use therefore does not represent the entirety of need across the country, but rather those who have accessed this form of support – many more people appear to be facing serious hardship without such help.  The research identifies the following groups as most at risk of food insecurity: 

  • More than half of households experiencing food insecurity, and three quarters of people referred to food banks in the Trussell Trust network say that they or a member of their household are Disabled people. 
  • Working-age adults are much more likely to need to turn to a food bank than pensioners. This is particularly the case for single adults living alone and those not currently in paid work.  
  • Families with children are at a high risk of food insecurity. Nearly half (47%) of all households experiencing food insecurity include children under the age of 16. 
  • Structural inequalities shape hardship and food insecurity. People from ethnic minority groups, women, people who are LGBTQ+, people who have sought or ever applied for asylum, and people who were in care as a child, are all overrepresented in the proportion of the population experiencing food insecurity and receiving food aid.  

The trust stresses that disability and ill-health significantly increase a person’s likelihood of being food insecure and of having to rely on food banks.  Across the UK general population, 26% people meet the Equality Act 2010 definition of disability. These figures are much higher for people experiencing food insecurity (48%) and people referred to food banks in the Trussell Trust network (69%).  The types of conditions reported by disabled people are varied and often overlap, but all conditions – from mental health issues, to physical and learning disabilities – are more common amongst people referred to food banks than in the wider UK population. Of people referred to food banks in the Trussell Trust network, three quarters (75%) report that they, or a member of their household is disabled, significantly higher than the level seen in the general population (34%).  Three main factors combine to prevent people from having sufficient income to avoid food insecurity, and leave them having to turn to food banks:  

  • The design and delivery of the social security system.  
  • Work which does not provide sufficient protection from financial hardship.  
  • Difficulty accessing suitable jobs, especially for disabled people, people with caring responsibilities and parents (especially mothers).  

However, the Trust says that the most significant cause of the financial insecurity that is driving the need for food banks is the design and delivery of the social security system.  The research highlights four main benefit issues affecting food bank users: 

  • lack of information about entitlements;  
  • difficulties claiming and sustaining benefits, particularly Personal Independence Payments (PIP) for people who are affected by a long-term physical or mental health condition or disability; 
  • insufficient income from benefits when they are accessed;  
  • further reductions to income from sanctions, caps and debt deductions.  

In her Foreword to the report, Emma Revie, Chief Executive, The Trussell Trust reiterates its call for an Essentials Guarantee - which would ensure that the basic rate of universal credit is always enough for people to afford the essentials: “Being forced to turn to a food bank to feed your family is a horrifying reality for too many people in the UK, but as Hunger in the UK shows, this is just the tip of the iceberg.  Millions more people are struggling with hunger. This is not right. Food banks are not the answer when people are going without the essentials in one of the richest economies in the world. We need a social security system which provides protection and the dignity for people to cover their own essentials, such as food and bills.” The Trussell Trust report Hunger in the UK is available from trusselltrust.orgSee also our related news story Cost of living situation for UC households ‘almost universally dire’ says Joseph Rowntree Federation.