Food banks report ‘unprecedented demand’ during Covid crisis as unemployment predicted to rise to 10% by the end of 2020

The number of families with children needing emergency food parcels almost doubled this year. Credit: PA

Food banks experienced their "busiest month ever" during the coronavirus crisis as families faced a loss of income due to job losses or furlough schemes, the Trussell Trust has said.

The food bank network saw an 89% increase in demand for emergency food parcels in April compared to the same period in 2019.

The figures included a 107% increase in food parcels sent to children with the number of families seeking help almost doubling since last year.

The Independent Food Aid Network (IFAN) reported similar increases reporting 175% more emergency food parcels given out in the UK during April 2020 compared to last year.

Credit: PA

Emma Revie, Chief Executive of the Trussell Trust, said: “We have been seeing rises in food bank need for the past five years but this 89% increase - with the number of families coming to food banks doubling - is completely unprecedented and not right.

"People need to be able to put food on their table. The government must put urgent support in place to ensure people already struggling to keep their heads above water can stay afloat.

"It's in our power to protect one another, we’ve seen it during this health crisis, and we need it to continue during this economic one.” 

The National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) has warned unemployment could rise to 10% by the end of the year due with the "premature" end to the furlough scheme in October.

NIESR also projected the global GDP will fall by 5% this year, a "substantially larger" fall than during the financial crisis of 2008, with unemployment rising as a result.

Garry Young, NIESR Deputy Director, said: “The planned closure of the furlough seems to be a mistake, motivated by an understandable desire to limit spending.

“The scheme was intended by the Chancellor to be a bridge through the crisis and there is a risk that it is coming to an end prematurely and this increases the probability of economic scarring.”

Charities have warned that families could be 'swept into destitution' by the crisis. Credit: PA

A coalition of charities, including the Trussell Trust, IFAN and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, is urging the government to act quickly in providing a stronger lifeline to people to prevent many from being swept into destitution. 

It says a first step should be ensuring local authorities in England have enough funding to provide emergency cash grants and bring it in line to that of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

It is part of a Coronavirus Emergency Income Support Scheme proposed by the coalition that urges the government to:

  • Increase benefits for families to help with the costs of raising children.

  • Extend the suspension of benefit deductions to include advance payments - the loans offered to cover the five-week wait for a first Universal Credit payment.  

  • Lift the benefit cap to ensure the scheme benefits everyone.  

Sabine Goodwin, coordinator of IFAN said: “Our food bank figures paint a grim picture of what is unfolding across the UK and the numbers of people having to resort to emergency food parcels to survive.

"Our joint call details how this can start to be achieved and we urge the Government to act swiftly and decisively to reverse this devastating trend.”