More than half of households experiencing food insecurity, and three quarters of people referred to food banks say that they or a member of their household are disabled, according to new research from The Trussell Trust.
The report, Hunger in the UK, found disabled people and people with poor health are overrepresented amongst those experiencing food insecurity and forced to rely on food banks.
Research shows that across the UK general population, 26% people meet the Equality Act 2010 definition of disability, yet 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.
Food banks are not the answer
Emma Revie, Chief Executive, The Trussell Trust, said: “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 research also identified a range of barriers preventing people being able to rely on benefit entitlements. This is particularly true for people entitled to disability benefits as the majority (62%) of people from disabled households referred to food banks in the Trussell Trust network are not receiving any benefits specifically related to their disability.
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.
It recommended that social security systems should be designed by disabled people, with onsite advocacy available for all people seeking support.
The report also said that unpaid carers who support older or disabled adults face a high-risk of poverty and financial hardship. Due to the lack of affordable replacement care available in the UK, many unpaid carers are unable to work or have the hours they can work restricted. Balancing such caring responsibilities with paid work can be extremely challenging. Many carers work part time to maintain this balance, which often restricts them to lower paid jobs.