Shocking figures released last week show that the number of people using foodbanks in Wandsworth rose by 25% last year. Across London as a whole, the increase was 4%.
The figures, released by the Trussell Trust in their Food Poverty Report 2015-16, showed that last year 4078 people in Wandsworth relied on foodbanks. A quarter of them were children.
Commenting on the figures, Labour councillor for Furzedown, Candida Jones, said: “What possible excuse could there be for a 25% increase in food poverty in one of the richest boroughs in one of the richest cities in the world? If 25% more people are relying on charity for food this year then there is a serious problem with the support systems in this borough. The systems that are supposed to protect our most vulnerable people are not working”.
The Trussell Trust, which runs foodbanks in Wandsworth describes them as “an increasingly essential part of the safety net.. standing between people in crisis and destitution”.
Compared with the figures for 2013-14 there has been a 76% increase in food bank use in Wandsworth.
According to the Trussell Trust, the principal causes of food poverty in Wandsworth are delays to benefit payments, mental health issues, illness, domestic violence, debt, low paid work, unemployment and homelessness. The report also showed that food poverty leads to increased mental health problems and poorer physical health.
There are 208 local agencies able to issue food vouchers in Wandsworth including doctors, social workers, schools, the Council and the Citizens Advice Bureau. The benefits system came in for particular criticism in the report from many of these agencies. One said: “Sanctions are used to punish unemployed people and fool the public into thinking ‘workless are feckless’, leaving people hungry, angry and desperate”.
Simon Hogg, Leader of Wandsworth Labour, said: “There are things the Council could and should be doing to tackle this steep rise in food poverty. We could help vulnerable people to understand and navigate the benefits system. We could provide emergency financial help when benefits are delayed. The Council could also make sure all employees and contractors are paid the London Living Wage.”
According to the Trussell Trust some 43% of visitors to Wandsworth’s foodbanks had gone one or more days without eating anything at all and five out of seven parents said they had skipped meals so their children could eat.
The Trussell Trust report also showed that fuel poverty in the borough is increasing with two-thirds of those who received emergency food also reporting that they had experienced periods when they had been unable to heat their homes, cook or use hot water.