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19 December 2013

Food banks become a lifeline for disabled people

The Disability Benefits Consortium (DBC), which is made up of 50 charities and other organisations such as the MS Society, Leonard Cheshire Disability and RNIB, is warning the situation will get even worse as the government implements more changes.

A survey of nearly 4000 disabled people, carried out  by the DBC, reveals that of those hit by housing benefit changes – such as the ‘bedroom tax’ – more than one in ten (12 per cent) have needed to use food banks to feed themselves and their families.

There have also been changes to council tax that have hit some disabled people hard, increasing the amount of money they have to pay when they were previously exempt. A similar number of people affected by those cuts – 9 per cent - have also needed to use food banks.

Among those people unfortunate enough to be affected by changes to both housing benefit and council tax, as many as 15 per cent are using food banks.

The DBC is warning the government that even more disabled people and their carers are going to be forced to rely on food banks as benefit changes continue to come into force.

Personal Independence Payment (PIP)

The Disability Living Allowance (DLA) is currently being replaced by Personal Independence Payment (PIP). PIP is supposed to help disabled people with the additional costs of living with a disability, but under the plans more than 600,000 people will no longer qualify for support. It will leave them even more likely to need help with the costs of housing and council tax.

Claire Nurden from the MS Society, and Co-Chair of the DBC said: “The combined impact of the changes to the benefits system will be nothing short of devastating for many disabled people. It’s extremely worrying that disabled people are already being forced to rely on food banks. With many of the cuts yet to kick in, the situation can only get worse from here.”

Rosanna Singler from Leonard Cheshire Disability and Co-Chair of the DBC said: “No one in Britain wants disabled people to be going hungry. We are calling for the government to conduct an urgent investigation into the impact of the benefits changes on disabled people. A major re-think of how the cuts are being delivered is vital to prevent disabled people being pushed into poverty – which as this research shows, is already starting to happen.”

Sally Bell is 46 and lives in Bristol. She has ME/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), Fibromyalgia and Bipolar. She has been forced to use her local food bank after being hit by increased council tax contributions: “I now have to pay £20 per month towards my council tax whereas I hadn’t had to before. This might not sound like a lot but it is quite a lot to me as I have to feed myself and my 17 year old daughter on £40 per week. It is difficult to make one proper meal a day for both of us on this.

“Although the staff at the food bank are very respectful, being forced to use the food bank and having to rely on such little money has made me feel less of a human being. I wish the government would stop and realise we are human beings, not second class citizens.”

Read about changes to the benefits system.