Food banks: Flawed benefits system failing Hackney’s most vulnerable

(The team at Hackney Foodbank)

Residents with severe mental health problems are being thrown on the scrapheap and left to a downward spiral of poverty under the new Universal Credit system.

That’s the verdict of the team at Hackney Foodbank who say poverty is the worst they’ve ever known it – they say most of the people going hungry and struggling to pay rent are those with conditions like depression, anxiety, agoraphobia and post-traumatic stress disorder.

As the charity gears up for a busy summer holidays, they’re already reeling from a 44% increase in referrals. At the end of every week the shelves are almost empty and they’re spending around £1,000 per week on food shops. Hackney Foodbank distributes over two tonnes of food per week to people in need. The school holidays are the most pressured time as parents, who usually depend on free school meals, struggle to meet the cost of feeding their children lunch.

Melanie Rochford, Business and Development Director at Hackney Foodbank, said: “Mental health is debilitating but it’s unseen. We’re in a situation now locally where residents receiving Disability Living Allowance are being forced to undergo reassessment. They’re being assessed by unqualified, non-medical people who in many cases disagree with doctors and deem them fit to work."