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The Good Food Bag Update

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By Jenni Pocsai, Operations Manager, The Good Food Bag

Jenni Pocsai, Good Food Bag for GM Poverty Action

Jenni Pocsai

The Good Food Bag is a meal kit service funded by Irwell Valley Homes and One Manchester. The Good Food Bag provides low cost, healthy meal kits to organisations, as well as selling directly to customers in areas of food insecurity. They have initially started in Sale West, in Trafford. The idea is simple; for just £7 people get a bag with ingredients and a simple step by step recipe card to cook a nutritious meal to feed a family of four. Not a family of four? No problem – the meals are just as tasty the next day, so enjoying a left-over lunch, or super speedy supper another day in the week takes care of any leftovers!

Since starting in Trafford in October, the Good Food Bag has partnered with Healthy Me, Healthy Communities to provide the meal kits to those accessing their community grocers.  This is bringing a new group of budget food finders to the doors of the grocers in Hulme and Gorton.  The same idea will be launching in January with The Good Food Bag available at Lucy’s Pantry, run by Emmaus in Salford.

The idea is a simple one, make more options for good value food available to people where they already are. We want to help those who are inexperienced cooks to make their food budgets go further. By learning new recipes and how to put foods together, the offerings from community grocers and other schemes will make more sense and be more cost-effective long term.

Sasha Deepwell, Chief Exec of Irwell Valley explains “It’s more than just providing a food parcel, it’s offering choice, it’s developing skills and inspiring confidence, it’s affordable and it’s feeding families right now. We have a few budget friendly food offerings in Manchester, but none are like The Good Food Bag. It’s part of a new trend towards purchased food, planning ahead for if surpluses run out, and providing a more sustainable solution to help people out of food insecurity.’’

Registered housing providers have certainly played their part in the pandemic, supporting communities who have been hit hard by lockdown and the subsequent recession. But this problem is not going away anytime soon, and the key will be to invest in long terms solutions and try to find a way forward with purchased, rather than donated food – but still provide low cost, high quality food to families on their doorsteps.

Nicole Kershaw, Chief Exec at One Manchester said, “The Good Food Bag is a great way to help those families hardest hit by the pandemic. It’s not a handout, it’s a helping hand when people need it most.  With The Good Food Bag, I know we can make a difference to people’s lives.” In a time where making a difference counts more than ever, find out how you can get involved here .

 

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Sound Pound

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GM Community Credit Unions unite to unveil £15m support in Covid recovery plan
Press release from the Sound Pound Campaign

Eight Community Credit Unions have joined together to launch a Covid-19 recovery plan that will offer hope and £15m in financial support to millions of people across Greater Manchester.

The consortium, known as Sound Pound, wants to show communities across the city region that there is light at the end of the tunnel and that their local community credit union is there to support them at this time of uncertainty and financial hardship.

David Batten, chief executive of Hoot Credit Union in Bolton and chair of the Sound Pound consortium, said: “We have come together to launch this joint recovery plan and to pool the resources and financial support we have available. Together, we have a very clear objective to rebuild communities, support people and lend responsibly. And, by doing this, it will also provide a vital boost to the local economy.

“We want to encourage anyone who is struggling financially due to the impact of Covid to speak to their community credit union about their borrowing needs. By supporting local people and offering them credit, it will increase spending and keep our economy moving forward. It’s a cycle and, if we work together, we can keep going.”

The Sound Pound consortium is made up of Manchester Credit Union, South Manchester Credit Union, Stockport Credit Union, Cash Box Credit Union (Tameside), Unify Credit Union (Wigan), Hoot Credit Union (Bolton), Salford Credit Union and Oldham Credit Union. All eight have signed up to the initiative in order to provide support to their local communities.

David continued: “Credit Unions are ethical, not-for-profit financial organisations. They are there to put people first and to help anyone who needs financial support. Credit unions also help people to save for the future and become financially independent.”

Angela Fishwick, chief executive of Unify Credit Union in Wigan, said: “Our communities are really struggling right now. Many who never experienced debt or hardship before, are facing a very uncertain future and we can help. Because of the unique way that credit unions operate, we are able to lend money to help them with their day to day living costs and even help them save for a more secure future.”

Nathan Walters, member of Cash Box Credit Union in Tameside, said: “I first joined Cash Box because I wanted to start saving but they really came to my rescue recently when I needed urgent financial support. They are so friendly and helpful and because they are a part of my community they really understand me and my circumstances.”

David added: “Credit unions offer support to local people whatever their needs are. Whether they are a single parent struggling to make ends meet, are looking for a deposit for their first home or need some help with managing their finances and putting some money away. Credit unions are also there to support local businesses and we offer a range of support services to help them with the increasing pressures they are currently experiencing.

“Our Sound Pound recovery plan has been created to rebuild communities, support people and lend responsibly and it will play a crucial role in driving our local economy forward, helping all of us to build back better from the impacts being felt by our communities across Greater Manchester due to the Covid-19 pandemic.”

To find out more about the support offered by your local community credit union, visit the website

Soundpound logos for GM Poverty Action

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Help with your water bill

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Income affected by COVID restrictions? Get help with your water bill
By Colin Gallagher, United Utilities

United Utilities is appealing for customers who have been financially impacted by COVID-19 to get in touch so they can help. Their ‘Back on Track’ scheme is aimed at customers who receive benefits or tax credits and are struggling with their water bill payments due to their income being affected by COVID restrictions.

Jane Haymes, affordability manager at United Utilities said: “We know that many of our customers have already been impacted by coronavirus over the previous seven months and even more will be affected by new restrictions being introduced across many parts of the North West.

“Our Back on Track scheme is a way we can help those customers who need our support the most by reducing their annual bill until the end of March 2021.

“We would encourage customers to get in touch with us whether they’ve been previously furloughed under the Job Retention Scheme or are likely to be affected by the Job SupportScheme introduced on November 1st. Even if you don’t meet our criteria for the Back on Track scheme there are other ways we can make your water bills more affordable until these restrictions are eventually lifted.”

For further details about the scheme download the full application pack from the United Utilities website.

To apply, customers can either return the application form included in the pack or compete the online affordability form here.  Customers can also call the affordability team at United Utilities on 0800 072 6765 to apply.

 

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Rethinking Poverty

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Big reset needed for a resilient society
by Barry Knight, a frequent contributor to Rethinking Poverty

My favourite history book, The Sleepwalkers, tells the story of how the great powers drifted into the First World War without reason or regard to consequences. This is a common pattern, repeated many times since. For example, by blindly giving priority to economic growth, we have walked lemming-like towards the pandemic, the economic crash, the climate disaster, and the racism crisis. Yet, half a century ago, the Club of Rome report set out the social and environmental limits to growth and predicted the consequences of ignoring them.

The consequences are now becoming clear, exemplified in the dramatic rise in poverty. Since March 2020, we have witnessed the fastest increase in the number of people claiming working-age social security benefits in the UK since records began. In parts of Manchester, up to 40 per cent of children now grow up in poverty.

And this is just the start. Planned redundancies are running at twice the level of the 2008 financial crash. According to estimates by the Trussell Trust, destitution rates are set to double by Christmas, while the crisis of food poverty is becoming a ‘national scandal. Footballer Marcus Rashford speaks for many when he says:

I have no interest in party politics. Letting millions of children in the UK go hungry at night
is only an issue of humanity. We need to do better
.’

The pandemic has exposed a critical weakness in the systems we use to support society. We have relied on a just in time approach, with no spare capacity, so that systems collapse as soon as unusual events occur. Successive governments have downgraded the importance of building infrastructure for the long term, preferring the quick-fix magic-bullet policy designed to address short-term symptoms.

So, the main lesson from the pandemic is the importance of planning for resilient systems. The concept of a planned society was a key factor in the success of social and economic policy in the 30 years since the Second World War, but has now been more or less abandoned.

A much-needed national plan would develop a ‘big reset’ for our society. There would be two main goals: first to rescue the millions of people now living in poverty and second to reform the operating principles for society.

Taking rescue first, the plan needs to stabilise our society by guaranteeing a basic income for everyone. This can be done in many ways, but the simplest and most respectful solution is through a universal basic income. This is needed because jobs are scarce and Universal Credit barely meets people’s subsistence requirements.

Turning to the development of new operating principles, the plan should use the idea of wellbeing as its goal. Wellbeing means that people feel good, have robust physical and mental health, and find fulfilment in their work, leisure and family lives. The Carnegie UK Trust has developed a framework for how to develop wellbeing in society.

The plan would involve substantial reforms to the way we generate, tax and distribute wealth in society. Rather than having a society driven by profit, the plan would build on the surge in community spirit produced by the pandemic to foster solidarity where everyone has enough, but no one has too much. This would require a sustainable economy that enhances the natural world, while creating meaningful work. The plan would examine each and every government policy to ensure that it is life enhancing, so that, for example, education produces enthusiastic lifelong learners who can develop meaningful lives rather than people who can pass SATS tests.

Barry Knight for GM Poverty Action

Barry Knight

Given the upheaval caused by the pandemic, there is the opportunity to #BuildBackBetter.  This will require countercyclical investment, including borrowing to pay for it, but the alternative will be increasingly ineffective crisis interventions to compensate for our years of sleepwalking. Let’s wake up.

 

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Tackling evictions

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The Bond Board is taking on a pending tsunami of evictions
By Thomas Ingham, Housing Adviser, The Bond Board Ltd

It’s common knowledge that Covid-19 has had a severe effect on the Private Rented Sector for both landlords and tenants. It has been estimated that over 174,000 tenancies have been threatened with eviction with 227,000 tenants in the UK admitting they are in rent arrears. Greater Manchester Combined Authority Leaders say they fear “homelessness could return to the streets of Greater Manchester on a scale not seen since the 1930s” if rapid and decisive action is not taken to avert a crisis. The legislation seems to be changing so regularly it is hard to keep up and as a result both landlords and tenants are struggling to understand what their rights are.

Tenants are also finding themselves more frequently in a position of financial insecurity which is often not only putting their tenancy at risk but potentially affecting the landlord’s finances too. Though the government has put large notice periods in place for most evictions, this does not solve the problem and only delays it. At some point there is potential for a large wave of private rented evictions to take place. We, at The Bond Board, have recognised this growing issue and we believe that tackling these issues sooner rather than later can prevent potential evictions.

With funding from The National Lottery and the Greater Manchester Mayoral Fund we have successfully put together a specialist housing advice service to tackle these issues within Oldham, Wigan, Rochdale and Bolton. We are offering 1 to 1 support with any private rented tenant living within these areas that are at risk of losing their tenancy and are on a low income. We will offer support with a variety of issues ranging from advice on legal possession notices and what their rights are, rent arrears, complex issues regarding illegal evictions and many more. We have partnered with the National Housing Advice Service and Shelter to assist us with any cases that demand additional specialist support to ensure that all our clients have the best chance of getting back on track.

For instance, in a recent case we offered support to we found that the Section 21 notice the tenant received was produced on the wrong document and therefore would have not been legal. This caused stress for the tenant and meant they could not go on a priority banding with their local housing provider. Through landlord and tenant mediation we managed to discuss the reasons for the eviction and we have helped manage the tenancy to a point where the eviction is no longer necessary. The landlord has been given advice on Section 21’s so that in the future both landlord and tenants have a clearer understanding. We hope we can ensure that we exhaust all options before any eviction and we can prevent a potential tsunami in evictions in the upcoming 12 months.

However, we also understand that a significant number of landlords have also been affected by Covid-19 and may be struggling with income or ever changing legislation. Thanks to funding from The Nationwide Foundation and their Fair Housing Futures project, we are offering support, advice and training to landlords who may need advice around their rights, information around Universal Credit, updates on changes to housing legislation and eviction proceedings. This is a valuable free service that can offer long term 1 to 1 support that is rarely available and continues The Bond Board’s objectives of a Private Rented Sector that works for all.

Thomas Ingham Bond Board for GM |Poverty Axction

Thomas Ingham

If you would like to refer to either of our services then please email and request a referral form. If you would like to spread the word to your colleagues or clients then please get in touch on the same email and we can send over both referral forms and leaflets for you to share, as well as answering any burning questions.

 

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Challenge Poverty Week

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By Gavin Aitchison, Church Action on Poverty

Groups around England and Wales will take part in Challenge Poverty Week in October, and people in Greater Manchester can all get involved.

The week has been a successful project in Scotland since 2013, and will now be held in England and Wales for the first time, from October 12th to 18th, 2020. An online event for people and projects in Greater Manchester will be held from 11am to 12 noon on Thursday October 15th, 2020 but it’s not too late for you too to play your part.

Your group could organise an online discussion or storytelling session, or simply help by sharing photos, videos and messages on social media; writing to local politicians; or attending one of the various events listed on the website.

We know that, at heart, we all want to live in a compassionate society where everyone can thrive and reach their potential. The coronavirus pandemic has reminded us of that – we have seen communities coming together amid the uncertainty with a renewed neighbourly kindness. None of us is happy seeing others hungry, lonely, or struggling to stay afloat.

The pandemic also intensified and showed starkly the inequalities in our society, however. People on low incomes and in disadvantaged areas, and people in ethnic groups already suffering from social and economic injustice, have been disproportionately affected. We’re not all in the same boat, and often those who are most weighed down by debt or poverty have been offered fewest lifelines and least support.

Too many people, particularly since the pandemic, are struggling against the threat of being swept into deeper difficulty.

As we navigate these choppy waters, and plan for life after the storm, we have a chance to do things differently. We can harness the compassion, community and connectedness that we have cherished in recent months, and say ‘enough’ to the systems and structures that have hindered people for so long. We can and must redesign our economy to reflect our shared values of justice and compassion, and by ensuring incomes are adequate and living costs affordable, we can make sure everyone has what we need.

Challenge Poverty Week is an opportunity to highlight the incredible work being done by community groups around the country, and to show what can and must be done differently.

The week aims to:

  • Raise voices in unison against poverty and show that we all want to live in a more just and compassionate country.
  • Show what is already being done at community level to challenge and alleviate poverty.
  • Build awareness and support for long term solutions that focus on enhancing the dignity and agency of people in poverty themselves.
  • Change the conversation around poverty and help end the stigma.

Greater Manchester Poverty Action is co-hosting an online discussion event with Church Action on Poverty and others on Zoom from 11am on Thursday October 15th, 2020, highlighting the effective work that is being done across the city region, and to call for more action to ensure everyone can stay afloat, now and beyond the pandemic. There will be several speakers and a chance to discuss the issues and ask questions. Sign up here.

Gavin Aitchison Challenge Poverty Week for GM Poverty Action

Gavin Aitchison

Challenge Poverty Week is an opportunity for people in poverty to speak up, and for voices that are often ignored to be heard loud and clear. It’s a chance to show that a better, more compassionate society is possible – and that now is the time to start making it a reality.

You can download the Challenge Poverty Week toolkit, packed with ideas and tips, here

 

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No Going Back

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“Invest in a crucial sector or risk losing it”, say Manchester’s voluntary sector leaders
by Helen Walker, Policy and Influence worker, Macc

Leaders of Manchester-based charities have shared their experiences of the Covid-19 crisis and their thoughts for the future in a new report produced by Macc, Manchester’s local voluntary and community sector support organisation.

Titled No Going Back, the report brings together the experiences of 22 local voluntary sector leaders who shine a light on the critical role that the voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) sector has played during the response to the Covid-19 crisis. As well as reflecting on the lessons learned during the crisis, the leaders make the case for change going forward and highlight the unique opportunity society has to make things better in the future.

Macc logo (voluntary sector) for GM Poverty ActionCommenting on the launch of the report, Mike Wild, chief executive of Macc said “Manchester’s 3,000+ voluntary, community and social enterprise organisations have responded amazingly to the crisis. They have remade services so people can stay connected and supported during lockdown, worked to ensure nobody is left without access to food, shelter, care, wellbeing support, mental health support, creative activities and provided support around pre-existing matters which had nothing directly to do with Covid-19.

“The sector’s resilience has been tested in ways few of us have ever experienced. That this has taken place at the same time as a sudden drop in fundraising and other activities which generate income for VCSE organisations, speaks to their dedication to make a difference when they are most needed. It is estimated there has been a loss of over £10bn in the sector across the country, yet this has not deterred Manchester VCSE organisations from responding.

“There is a crucially important lesson to be drawn from the voluntary sector’s response to the Covid-19 crisis. That is that these organisations are part of the resilience of our communities and we need them to be there – and never more so than in a crisis. No Going Back tells their story. Manchester’s marvellously diverse vibrant, messy, gumption-filled, voluntary, community and social enterprise sector has risen to the challenge of the moment and we must build on this, invest in it or risk losing it altogether.”

For more information and to read No Going Back, please visit the Manchester Community Central website.

 

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Safety4Sisters

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By Sandhya Sharma, Group Coordinator, Safety4Sisters

“I have to choose between topping up my phone or food – my phone is my lifeline right now so I chose that.”

These are the words from one of the members of Safety4Sisters Migrant Women’s Support Group, echoing similar statements from other members. Our weekly group meeting, now online, reveals the shocking extent of migrant women’s poverty that has largely been written out of local and national government responses, even under pandemic conditions.

To contextualise, Safety4Sisters is a BME led women’s organisation working to support migrant women survivors of domestic abuse and gender-based violence who have no recourse to public funds (NRPF) delivering casework, advocacy and group support services. Public funds cover the essential welfare system safety net for those in need including housing benefit, universal credit and access to emergency accommodation. This means that women subject to NRPF, a condition of their immigration status in the UK, cannot access lifesaving support systems and housing such as refuges and emergency council housing when leaving abuse, isolating them from support, resources, and government attention. Women therefore face a stark choice – stay in the abuse or leave and face destitution, taking their chances to survive on the street despite the current public health crisis . Positioned at the intersection of race, class, gender and immigration control, women are living in extreme states of poverty and as migrants, many newly arrived in the UK, they have little social or cultural capital to support and anchor them. Some are subject to the asylum process of dispersed housing, often moving several times unable to put down roots. Others are in and out of temporary accommodation, which we – a small voluntary organisation – often have to fund as housing providers are unwilling to support them unless we pay.

The coronavirus has amplified the already challenging conditions forged by years of austerity for women experiencing gender-based violence and crucially those subject to the NRPF rule. Since lockdown we have seen a surge in referrals, the women we work with have endured longer periods in violent households and we have seen a rise in more complex cases. Those on asylum support were living on £37.25 a week and some women were completely destitute relying on charities such as us to provide money and food parcels.  Our forthcoming report, The Pandemic Experiences of Migrant Women, details the struggles our users and our small organisation faced. We found that 53% of women surveyed in our group were in the government risk categories, far higher than the national average – according to the Lancet,  29.1% of the British population have an underlying health condition. Additionally, 90% of the women had experienced food and fuel poverty, and  several women reported an increase in mental distress and suicide ideation. It was no surprise then that women were coming to the group in desperate situations.

With the few support agencies that migrant women could access closing their community doors, access to a hot lunch, travel expenses and a friendly supportive and safe meeting space were non-existent.

Safety4Sisters banner for GM Poverty ActionGiven the paucity of support agencies available, the lack of consideration for migrant women’s experiences at the local and national level, the acute under resourcing and lack of power of groups, like Safety4Sisters, we should not be surprised when women are left to survive in severe poverty, starving and at risk of street homelessness.

We have to ask ourselves, what did we expect and what do we expect?  Safety4Sisters believe that we can do more and that ‘building back better’ demands that migrant women’s voices and those at the bottom of the pile are embedded in how we now advance as a society.

For more information about our work and to access the COVID19 report please see our website.

 

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Local Welfare Assistance

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Ensure Local Welfare Assistance is the lifeline it needs to be, during this crisis and in the future
By Gareth Duffield, Area Manager – Greater Manchester, Merseyside and Cheshire, Trussell Trust

During the pandemic we have seen a soaring rise in need. The number of food parcels provided by food banks in the Trussell Trust food network increased by 89% in April compared to last year, with a staggering 107% rise in parcels for families with dependent children.

Over the past few months, we’ve heard lots of suggestions that focus on getting food to people who can’t afford it. But food isn’t the answer to people needing food banks.  We are working towards a society where everyone has enough to buy food for their family, cover their housing costs, heat and light their homes, and to be able to buy all the other essentials we all need to get by.

During this crisis, we have been working in coalition with other anti-poverty charities to call for lifelines to help us all weather this storm, such as through suspending the repayment of Universal Credit advance payments, and increasing benefits that go towards the cost of raising children.

One important safety net is local welfare assistance schemes (LWA) which can provide cash grants to keep households afloat in times of financial crisis. When properly run, they get money to people quickly and can reduce the likelihood that people will become homeless or need to turn to a food bank.

It was heartening that the Prime Minister has announced a £63 million fund for these schemes; and of this, councils in Greater Manchester have received an allocation of £3.9m. Now this money has been allocated, it is absolutely crucial that these funds are administered properly if these schemes are to be the lifeline we so desperately need at this time. We are asking local authorities to:

•  Spend the money as intended: We recognise that local authorities are under huge amounts of pressure in many areas of their budgets, but we must ensure this money is not swallowed up by the growing holes in local authority budgets.

•  Build awareness of Local Welfare Assistance and the new funding: We know awareness of LWA can be extremely low. Poor publicity, unclear application processes and onerous application forms can limit uptake and leave people turning to food banks instead. Local authorities should promote and publicise the existence and purpose of schemes and agree an approach to signposting and support pathways with food banks.

•  Ensure people in need can access Local Welfare Assistance: Given the scale of present hardship, local schemes should consider relaxing their qualifying criteria to ensure those most in need get support. For example, considering applications from low income working families or those with no recourse to public funds.

•  Ensure people get the right kind of support: There must be a flexible, tailored approach to the kinds of support people receive, including the option for cash payments, rather than just food vouchers or other in-kind benefits, so people can buy food and other essentials like gas and electricity like anyone else. We know that GMPA have also been advising councils to adopt this approach.

It will also be important for local authorities to monitor the impact of this new funding, so that we can build the case for long-term investment in local welfare assistance.

We are calling on the UK Government to allocate £250m a year in funding for local welfare assistance, which would bring spending in England in line with equivalent schemes in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. We need to ensure that the £63m fund is not a one-off, but instead local authorities can continue to provide this vital funding during the challenging times ahead.

Gareth Duffield TT article for GM Poverty ActionThank you to all our campaigners, food banks, and partners such as The Children’s Society, who helped make the changes we’ve seen so far happen. Please continue to join our calls for long-term investment into this crucial local lifeline.

No one should be forced to use a food bank. When we stand together, we can make a real impact – we hope this new money is an important first step in doing just that.

 

Gareth Duffield

 

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Food support provision through Covid-19

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Food support provision through Covid-19
by Filippo Oncini, University of Manchester

In June, a mixed method study was launched to understand the obstacles, needs, and prospects of the food support providers active in Greater Manchester immediately after the Covid-19 peak. Food support providers were invited to fill out a questionnaire and to participate in a longer interview online. Of the organisations that responded, 55 completed the questionnaire and 33 agreed to a follow up conversation. Five additional interviews were conducted with sector experts not primarily involved in frontline support, to gain additional insight into some of the findings. Although the sample is mostly composed of food banks, it also includes several responses from food pantries, food clubs and meal providers. Preliminary analyses of the data should be taken with a pinch of salt, as respondents are likely to be self-selecting on certain characteristics of the organisations, which may produce biased responses. Nonetheless the data is useful as a starting point to reflect on the emergency responses put in place, the most common difficulties and the expectations food providers have for the near future.

Let us start with some good news: respondents have not been turning eligible people away due to lack of volunteer and staff capacity, or because of a shortage of food in stock. Despite most organisations declaring that the number of volunteers has decreased during the crisis, the capacity to improvise and quickly adapt to the new circumstances, coupled with the great generosity shown by individuals and companies, has allowed them to respond promptly to the increasing requests of people in need. For instance, many of them shifted logistics operations from food pick up to food delivery to help people that were shielding. It is not by chance that a striking majority claimed to be resilient against the challenges posed by the crisis, talking about a rise in monetary and food donations (Figures 1 and 2). Interestingly, despite many food support providers being forced to shut down after the lockdown due to a lack of volunteers and/or funds, the ‘parallel welfare’ provided by the charities and by mutual aid groups (MAGs) apparently absorbed many needs that emerged after the lockdown.

Figures 1 and 2. “Thinking about the following aspects of your organisation, how have each of them changed since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak?”

Figs 1 and 2 for Oncini artcle for GM Poverty Action

Yet the necessity to maintain the supply of food at all costs came with some drawbacks. The lockdown measures that followed Covid-19 not only affected the financial stability (Figure 3) and the management of the organisations, but actually undermined the influential ways in which food support providers used to operate – i.e. the “social atmosphere” (see Figure 4). Before the lockdown, a whole series of services were offered in addition to food support that were as important as the food parcels themselves. With 40 of the respondents reporting an increase in the number of clients (Figure 5), due to physical distancing measures in place, other forms of support such as financial advice, empathic listening and human connection were partially or totally lost, just when they were likely to be needed the most.

Figures 3 and 4. “On a scale from 1 to 5, where 1 is “Not at all” and 5 is “Very much so”, to what extent would you say COVID-19 has affected the following?”

Figs 3 and 4 for Oncini article for GM Poverty Action

Figure 5. “Thinking about the following aspects of your organisation, how have each of them changed since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak?”  

Fig 5 for Oncini article for GM Poverty Action

This leads us to another consideration. The exceptional nature of the first Covid-19 wave provoked the exceptional response of charities and public services alike. The sudden growth of MAGs all over the country is probably the most evident sign of this collective effort. Yet many food providers do not know how to project food poverty relief in the future. Especially during the interviews, respondents wondered whether food and monetary donations would increase again should a second lockdown occur, and stressed that the end of the furlough scheme, winter hardships, and the possibility of a no-deal Brexit, will exacerbate the situation for many people that already struggle to make ends meet and increase the number of people in need of food aid. This, in turn, could affect the response capacity of many organisations, some of which have less than two months’ worth of food or cash reserves at current levels of demands (Figures 6 and 7). Hence request of food support providers is the conception of a strategy at both the national and the local level that considers the potential scenarios and responses to a second crisis, to keep the sector afloat regardless of the severity of the upcoming crisis.

Figures 6 and 7. “Roughly, how many weeks will your existing food stocks/cash reserves last at current levels of demand?” 

Figs 6 and 7 for Oncini article for GM Poverty Action

Filippo Oncini research - Covid-19 article for GM Poverty Action

Filippo Oncini

While highlighting the fragility of the UK welfare system, the Covid-19 crisis has also shed light on the resilience of many food support providers, as well as on their complementarity. From more formal organisations, to less structured and extremely agile ones, food support providers have played a central role in the first phase of this major crisis. Yet the solidity of a social contract between the state, businesses and social groups cannot rely on a sector of the economy, no matter how well organised, intentioned and funded, for shielding the most vulnerable from poverty, precisely because food aid should be a very last resort, and not the central backbone of the social welfare.

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