«Scrutiny Report Food Banks September 2014 Food Banks Scrutiny Task Group Membership Richard Udall (Lead Scrutiny Member) ...»
Worcestershire County Council – Overview and Scrutiny
Food Banks Scrutiny Task Group Membership
Richard Udall (Lead Scrutiny Member)
Alyson Grice and Samantha Morris, Overview and Scrutiny Officers
Suzanne O'Leary, Overview and Scrutiny Manager
Further copies of this report are available from:
Overview and Scrutiny Team Legal and Democratic Services Worcestershire County Council County Hall Spetchley Road Worcester WR5 2NP Tel: 01905 766916 Email: email@example.com Website: www.worcestershire.gov.uk/scrutiny Contents Page Foreword 2 Purpose of the scrutiny 3 Recommendations 3-5 Findings 5-8 • 5 What is a food bank?
• 5 Food Bank Usage • 5-6 Who uses food banks?
• 6-7 How food banks operate in Worcestershire • 7 How referrals are made 8 The Council's role in supporting food banks and those who volunteer Methodology 9 Appendix 1 – Food Banks in Worcestershire 10-11 Appendix 2 – Schedule of Activity 12
-1- Chairman's Foreword As a Scrutiny Task Group we have interviewed many people who volunteer at food banks, they should be praised and congratulated for their hard work and dedication. The existence of food banks is a sad reflection of the times and a tragedy. It means the collective principle of the welfare state is not able to support all the people who are hungry. We have been told that more than half of all food bank users are in crisis because of benefit change or benefit delay; people going hungry due to bureaucracy. Benefit sanction has always existed but not to the extent we see today. The Task Group was concerned about the impact benefit sanctions are having and how their increased use is causing more and more Worcestershire residents into a food crisis.
Volunteers and referral agencies have told us many stories about individuals and why they are in need of help. It is shocking that in Britain in the twenty first century that we cannot feed all our people and that residents are dependent on food parcels. The truth is that many people are just one pay packet away from needing the help of a food bank. Any one of us could fall upon difficult times and could need the friendship and help of volunteers to come to our aid.
The scope of the scrutiny exercise has restricted what we can recommend. However, I hope our recommendations can be supported. They are based on trying to reduce the number of people who enter crisis. They are designed to ensure that those who do slip through the net need only ask for help once. We hope to give help and support to those who need it most and if possible prevent a crisis from happening.
We hope that in time the need for food banks will reduce. However, until that day arrives, we wish to thank all those people who give their time, money and energy to help those less fortunate than ourselves.
Cllr Richard Udall Lead Member, Food Banks Scrutiny Task Group
''Council notes the increase in Food Banks in the County and is worried about how residents in need of their service can gain legitimate access. Therefore, Council calls upon the Overview and Scrutiny Performance Board (OSPB) to investigate how this Council can help to support, co-ordinate and nurture the growing number of volunteers who wish to help with the provision of Food Banks and how we can provide advice and a co-ordinated response.''
2. On 30 January the OSPB agreed that a Scrutiny Task Group should be set up, led by
Councillor Richard Udall. The Terms of Reference were to examine:
3. In drawing up the recommendations the Task Group has been mindful of what the County Council can and cannot influence.
4. The County Council should develop a signposting leaflet containing key information on WCC services, which could be given to food banks for them to use when signposting people to County Council services in order to provide help with underlying problems.
In particular, a number of referral agencies and food banks demonstrated poor knowledge of the County Council Access Centre. We recommend that the County Council considers methods to generate more awareness of the Access Centre and the services it can provide.
5. It is acknowledged that food banks are charitable and voluntary bodies. However in the spirit of joined up working, the Task Group would like the County Council to consider signposting the location of known food banks in Worcestershire on its website (possibly via the Voluntary and Community Sector page or the Act Local website) to ensure that this information is easily accessible to those professionals who may need information about a food bank or may wish to find out how to access a food bank.
6. County Council officers should work with those running food banks and referral agencies to provide information to County Councillors so that they are better able to signpost residents in crisis to relevant services.
7. Given that the food banks have limited opening times, the Task Group recommends that consideration should be given to replicating the good practice adopted in Malvern where the Children's Centre works with the Malvern Food Bank and acts as a pick up point for emergency food parcels when the food bank is closed. We recommend that County Councillors should work with food banks, community groups and Parish Councils in their division to identify suitable premises for use as pick up points outside of local food bank operating hours.
8. The Task Group heard that in Worcester, most referrals to food banks are from Worcester Citizens Advice Bureau and Worcester Housing and Benefits Advice Centre (Worcester CAB & WHABAC). We also heard that Worcester CAB & WHABAC was currently dealing with a large increase in their workload and is struggling to cope with the pressure. The Task Group recommends that the Cabinet Member considers how Worcester CAB & WHABAC is funded to help it to provide early intervention to reduce the need for food bank use.
9. In addition, in order to increase councillor awareness, the Overview and Scrutiny Performance Board (OSPB) may benefit from a presentation from local CABs on their work within Worcestershire.
10. The County Council should consider offering support for the training of food bank volunteers in up to date County Council services and protocols, manual handling techniques, health and safety, risk assessment and food hygiene when they are running such courses for County Council staff.
11. In order to address issues of social stigma, the County Council should investigate ways to raise awareness of the work of food banks with vulnerable people, for example, the over 65s.
12. Several food bank representatives commented on the number of people they helped who had poor cooking skills and were lacking the necessary equipment, such as can openers, microwaves or even kettles. We heard that the food banks, as well as providing food, often needed to provide guidance on how to cook food. We also heard that there was a particular issue with some children who may go without hot food during the school holidays. Therefore, the Task Group recommends that consideration should be given to replicating the role of the Community Food Development Worker across the County. (This is currently a time limited post attached to Malvern Hills district only). This would facilitate the spreading of the good practice seen in the Malvern Children's Centre which works with residents in developing their food
13. The County Council should encourage all schools in Worcestershire to offer pupils lessons in practical cookery and household budgeting, giving them the opportunity to acquire basic life skills in food preparation and financial management.
14. A copy of the Food Banks Scrutiny Task Group's Final Report should be sent to all county MPs together with a request that they contact the DWP to seek data on benefit withdrawal and sanctions.
15. The Task Group suggests that its recommendations are reviewed in 2 years' time to assess progress made.
16. Food banks are non-profit making organisations that provide food parcels to those in crisis who have insufficient money to buy food. There are at least nine food banks in Worcestershire.
Food Bank Usage
17. Figures from the Trussell Trust show that nationally the number of people receiving three days’ emergency food increased significantly from 346,992 in 2012-13 to 913,138 in 2013-14.
18. The table below shows the number of people helped by the Trussell Trust in the West Midlands in the last 2 financial years. Figures for Worcestershire are shown where available.1
Who Uses Food Banks?
19. There is no one particular section of society that uses food banks. Food bank clients include individuals and families in crisis situations, and working and non-working households. Indeed, the Trussell Trust representative told us that the majority of people living in poverty in the UK are in work.
1 From Trussell Trust.
21. Increasing food and fuel prices, static incomes (including zero hours contracts), employment and benefits issues have all contributed to a situation where a tight budget can easily escalate into a crisis situation where there is no money to buy food.
In some cases people are left with impossible choices to make, such as whether to pay a heating bill or buy food. For some people, their financial situation is so precarious that a larger than expected bill or a missed benefit payment can mean no money for food that week and anecdotal evidence from the police suggested that the existence of food banks may divert people from stealing food.
22. However, it was clear to us that, for many people, turning to a food bank was a last resort and one particular concern we heard was that the over-65s were often too embarrassed to access food banks.
23. Food bank staff, Worcester CAB & WHABAC all cited benefit delays and sanctions (stoppage of benefit money) as a major factor behind the increasing demand for food banks, caused in the main by bureaucracy, depriving people of food over short periods, rather than long term food deprivation. The Trussell Trust advised that over 50% of referrals were the result of benefit changes or benefit delay.
24. Although the Task Group understands and appreciates the reasons behind Government welfare reforms, we heard clear anecdotal evidence that benefit delays, changes and sanctions penalise those in the most difficult of circumstances and can cause extreme financial hardship and temporary lack of food. We welcome steps taken by Robin Walker MP to take this issue up with the DWP.
25. The Task Group discussed whether the rising demand for food banks was simply the result of there being more food banks in existence, and whether food banks were substituting for other provision or reflecting a genuine increase in need. By way of evidence, Members noted that the Defra commissioned report into food security in the UK2 concluded that the increase in the number of food banks was demand led rather than supply led.
How food banks operate in Worcestershire
26. An important point to make is that the County Council has no direct involvement in the running of food banks in the County. As a result, it was difficult for the Task Group to establish the full picture of food bank provision in Worcestershire and we acknowledge 2 Household Food Security in the UK: A review of Food Aid, Food Ethics Council & University of Warwick, February 2014
-6that there may be food banks operating that we were not aware of and, as a result, are not included in the experience of this scrutiny exercise.
27. In Worcestershire food banks operate in a range of ways, from the highly organised Trussell Trust food banks, which work to a national template, to the smaller-scale, more informal work of NewStarts in Bromsgrove, Simply Limitless in Kidderminster and the Tenbury No Interest Loan Scheme (NILS).
The Trussell Trust
28. Seven food banks in the county are run by the Trussell Trust, a national Christian organisation based in Salisbury. Trussell Trust food banks currently operating in the county are listed in Appendix 1.
29. The two aims of the Trussell Trust are to:
30. Trussell Trust food bank network operates in partnership with local churches and communities, serving people of all faiths or no faith. The Trust has prescriptive guidelines about how all of the food banks operate.
31. Each project is run independently and is responsible for its own funding, with central support being provided for branding, material and advice from the Regional Manager.
The Trust also provides a website which was funded and updated centrally and an online data collection system which was used to record clients' details, food donated and food given out. This enabled the Trust to provide national, regional and local snapshots.
32. Non-perishable food is donated by local people (either directly to a food bank or church, or via supermarket collections). Volunteers help run the food banks by packing, sorting and distributing the food and the food banks are usually open for a couple of hours approximately two or three times per week.
33. The Trussell Trust has an ongoing relationship with Tesco who, as well as providing collection points for food donated by the public, also give the local project 30% of the value of the extra goods in recognition of the additional purchases in the supermarket.