We spoke to Andrew Forsey, National Director of Feeding Britain, about how this important charity operates and what the funding from our Trust means for them.
Funding that leads to specialist advice where it’s needed
For seven years Feeding Britain has been working to prevent, wherever possible, the need for food banks arising in the areas they cover; or at least make sure food banks are only a temporary measure.
Benefact Trust has awarded Feeding Britain a grant of £150,000 over two years. The majority of this money is going towards the cost of recruiting and retaining specialist advice workers as part of the ‘Pathways from Poverty’ project, the people who “hold the key to successful outcomes” for people at risk of becoming dependent on food banks, Andrew explains.
“Social supermarkets are community-led initiatives which operate in the space between the big supermarkets and food banks. Thanks to Benefact Trust, we can now embed on-the-spot specialist advice and trusted support in these places for people who are struggling, but are yet to reach crisis point. These advice workers help to resolve those underlying issues that erode budgets and people’s ability to cope: helping them get on top of debts or make sure their benefits are in order, and get their independence back. This combination of low-cost food and wraparound support can prevent people from reaching that crisis point
“Advice workers are a friendly face for anyone seeking help from a social supermarket or food bank. Rather than having to pay for a bus journey into town for an appointment in ten days’ time, for example, our advice workers can help there and then, when their help is most needed. Whether it’s offering the right guidance or making the right phone call, filling out the right form or asking the right questions of the right agency: that immediate help from an advice worker ensures a person can go home with not just supplies of food, but also with their income re-established so they don’t need to make subsequent visits.”
This project currently covers Wirral and Coventry; but once the effectiveness of the model is proven, there are plans to expand into all areas of the UK.
The under-claiming of help is an enormous problem
A little under half of the people eligible for the Government’s ‘Healthy Start’ voucher scheme are not taking up these vouchers, because they’re either not aware of the scheme or are struggling to apply. This is just one example of the under-claiming that’s evident across many parts of the benefits system.
Andrew continues: “We sit down with families, see what they’re entitled to receive, and get them signed up for their full entitlement, so they have a more adequate income to meet the cost of living.”
Expertise can turn incorrect decisions around
Appealing against benefit sanctions and incorrect disability benefit decisions has been a key triumph of the project. The charity’s trained and experienced advice workers help claimants to ensure the right evidence is submitted and considered, so that outcomes are established more quickly than they would have been otherwise.
Feeding Britain is working to persuade the Government to invest over the longer term in building up this level of advice where and when it’s needed, so that more people can be guided swiftly and safely against incorrect decisions and prolonged periods of hunger can be prevented.
A future that demands further support
The Pathways from Poverty project has already helped more than 4,000 households, seeing their annual incomes increase by a collective total of approximately £1 million. '“I can see both of those figures at least doubling in time,” Andrew comments.
He continues: “No matter where somebody lives, no matter what their circumstances, whether they’re accessing a food bank or social supermarket, everybody should have the right to this on-the-spot, specialist support to resolve the underlying causes of their hardship. Thanks to the funding and kindness of Benefact Trust, this is the model that should become the norm.”