The British Medical Journal (BMJ) has this week published a report by Oxford academics claiming to demonstrate a link between food bank use and benefits sanctions and cuts. The link has been consistently denied by Coalition ministers, who have refused to commission research into the issue.
According to the report’s authors expansion of food banks across the United Kingdom is unprecedented—the number of local authorities with food banks operated by the Trussell Trust has risen from 29 in 2009-10 to 251 in 2013-14.
In addition the highest levels of food bank use have occurred where there have been the highest rates of sanctioning, unemployment, and cuts in central welfare spending.
The authors found that food banks were more likely to open in local authorities with higher unemployment rates, whereas the share of the population reporting Christian faith was not associated with food banks opening. In other words, economic factors, rather than church-based charitable urges are the main driver of food banks opening, contrary to the claims of some commentators.
Clearly the Coalition will continue to refuse to hold any sort of inquiry into the extraordinary rise in food bank use and will steadfastly deny that food banks are in any way linked to government policy. But there can be very few people in the UK who seriously believe this, as report after report suggests otherwise.
You can read the report ‘Austerity, sanctions and the rise of food banks in the UK’ on the BMJ website.