If the former justice minister visited us at Coventry Foodbank, he would see the people left desperate after falling through the cracks in the system.
When I heard Dominic Raab say that studying Trussell Trust food bank data had made it clear to him that “the typical user of food banks is not someone who is languishing in poverty, it’s someone who has a cashflow problem episodically”, I immediately thought of Andrew.
I met Andrew a couple of years ago, when I was delivering a food bank parcel to his flat because he was too ill to come to the centre. Within the first two minutes I spent talking to him, it became clear he was struggling with multiple mental health issues and needed extra support. Instead he had fallen through the cracks in the system and his benefit payments had been stopped for six months. He couldn’t afford anything – electricity, gas, food. When I met him, he was five months into that six-month sanction, and the effect on his mental health and living situation was truly shocking.
He was a man on his knees. Imagine what being without any form of income for five months would do to you. Could any of us last without any money coming in for almost half a year?
I run Coventry Foodbank, which provided 15,333 of the 1.2 million three-day emergency food supplies given to people in crisis by Trussell Trust food banks last year. The two main reasons for referral to Trussell Trust food banks across the UK in the last year were issues with a benefit payment (43% of referrals are due to a benefit delay or change) and low income (26% of referrals are because people in work or on benefits do not have enough money coming in to meet essential costs when something unexpected hits). Like every food bank across the country, I meet people every week who have been left without money for food because of a problem with a benefit payment they were told they would receive, or because they’re in insecure or low-paid work.