Today we publish A Time of Crisis, a snapshot of our 2021/22 local food bank research report (to be published in early summer). This interim report reveals continued high levels of need for emergency food aid across Wandsworth Borough, and looks at what is causing local people and families to need to use our food bank to meet their basic needs.*
Our interim findings show:
- In 2021-22 at Wandsworth Foodbank, we provided 9,908 emergency food supplies to local people whose income didn’t cover the cost of essentials. This is a 53% increase on pre-pandemic levels.
- More than 1 in 3 emergency food supplies were for children.
- Half of all referrals to Wandsworth Foodbank were for local people whose income from benefits and/or work was simply too low to cover the cost of essentials like food, rent and bills.
- 53% of people at the food bank had a disability or long-term health issue, or lived with someone who did. We believe this shows the urgent need for Universal Credit and legacy benefits to increase in line with inflation now, to protect everyone from poverty – and especially people who cannot work due to disability, ill-health and caring responsibilities.
- 6 in 10 parents at the food bank had skipped meals so their children could eat, during the previous month.
- Poverty is a risk to health. 7 in 10 people at the food bank reported poorer mental health during the previous month, and half experienced poorer physical health.
- While 9 in 10 food bank referrers said availability of council emergency financial help was ‘extremely important’, only 6 in 10 referrers (57%) said applications to Wandsworth Council’s crisis grants had been successful. Only 1 in 5 food bank guests reported receiving a crisis grant for food or gas and electricity in the previous 3 months.
- In the last 5 years, the number of local households referred in poverty to Wandsworth Foodbank almost doubled, from 1,209 to 2,127. Food bank referrers include local schools, GPs, hospitals, advice agencies, Wandsworth Council teams, mental health teams and jobcentres.
A Time of Crisis interim report is based on voucher data from 4,545 referrals to Wandsworth Foodbank between April 2021-March 2022, alongside a survey of 61 people at our food bank welcome centres in March 2022, and an online survey completed by 37 local referral agencies (half of which were statutory agencies, and the other half voluntary sector, community and faith groups).
It shows that the cost of living crisis is already being felt by people at the food bank, exacerbating existing difficulties of life on a very low income. One man told us:
“Recently the price of things going up, food going up, electricity going up. Inflation going up and the pension increase not so much. It is only in the last two years that I have ever asked for help from anybody. I am 84. It frightens you. You think what can I do?”
As well as providing emergency food (donated by our generous community) and support, our Foodbank Advice Project provided expert advice and ongoing support to 572 local households, to maximise their income and reduce the need for emergency food aid. Key issues included resolving problems with Universal Credit and disability benefits. The Foodbank Advice Project is a partnership with our friends at Citizens Advice Wandsworth, and is funded by charitable grants and donations.
We’re pleased that 100% of food bank guests and referral agencies rated Wandsworth Foodbank’s service as excellent (95%) or good (5%). One guest, a lady in her 50s who worked as a care-worker until last year when ill-health meant she couldn’t work, said:
“The Foodbank has been a great support. You can come here, you can talk to people, they help you. The Foodbank Advice Project has helped me get a little bit extra in Asda vouchers from Wandsworth Council; and helped me to apply for disability benefits.”
With local elections on 5 May, we’re asking candidates from all parties to commit to two things which we believe will help protect people from poverty, and reduce the need for emergency food aid:
- We’re asking for the Real Living Wage for Wandsworth: We’re calling on all candidates to commit to Wandsworth Council becoming an accredited Real Living Wage employer. This would mean that all employees and sub-contracted workers would receive the only wage that’s based on the real cost of living – currently £11.05 an hour in London. 23 out of 33 London Councils already have. Will Wandsworth Council be next?
- We’re asking for more generous and rapid emergency financial help for people. Wandsworth Council has received £5million+ government funding to provide emergency support and essentials to residents on low incomes during the pandemic. We’re asking the Council to use this and future funding to provide more rapid, effective and generous financial support to residents when they need it most.
As ever, we’re incredibly grateful to each person who gives money, food and toiletries, and time as a volunteer to support local people and families at some of the most difficult times of life. Without your generosity, we couldn’t do what we do. Thank you.
*While we are the largest emergency food aid provider in Wandsworth Borough, we are not the only one. The figures in our interim report only include what we’ve done and the people we’ve helped, and not these other wonderful groups, so please remember that the actual need is even greater than what you see here.