Feeding Liverpool Launch 

Friday 20th May 2016

1. FL logo.jpg
 
 

The Launch of Feeding Liverpool took place on Friday 20th May 2016 at LACE (Liverpool Archdiocesan Centre for Evangelisation), Sefton Park, Liverpool

 

More than eighty people attended the launch of Feeding Liverpool, a group bringing together people who are concerned about food poverty in Liverpool.

 

Feeding Liverpool is one of a growing network of local projects following the Report of the All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Hunger in the UK published in December 2014 and called Feeding Britain: A strategy for zero hunger in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland

 

Feeding Liverpool is an initiative of Churches Together in Merseyside and Region.  This is appropriate because faith groups are so often involved in the provision of food banks and other food projects but we have no intention of going it alone.  

 

We aim to bring together people who are concerned about food poverty:

First – to share good practice about emergency provision;

Second – to campaign for change in those policies that cause or reinforce poverty;

Third – to raise public awareness about the extent of food poverty and the damaging effects of austerity measures on welfare provision.  

 

We also want to contribute to other efforts in the city to tackle food poverty such as the City Council’s Food Poverty Strategy Group at which Feeding Liverpool is being asked to take a lead role in engaging with local communities and learning from people’s lived experience.  As many of our participants are those on the frontline of provision, our key strength is to provide what Bishop Paul Bayes refers to as ‘a line of sight to the street and back’ in order to gain an understanding of the reality of food poverty and its implications – not just for providers and policy makers, but for all of us who aspire to live in a society that is built around fairness and the wellbeing of all. 

 

Feeding Liverpool is co-chaired by Bishop John Rawsthorne, (retired Bishop of the

Catholic Diocese of Hallam and former Auxiliary Bishop in Liverpool) and Professor Hilary Russell (Professor Emeritus at Liverpool John Moores University European Institute of Urban Affairs and leader of the Together For the Common Good [T4CG] research process).

 

Messages of support were displayed at the launch from Frank Field MP, co-chair of Feeding Britain, Mayor Joe Anderson and Bishop Paul Bayes (Anglican Bishop of Liverpool)

 

Speakers included Louise Ellman MP, Stephen Twigg MP, Niall Cooper (National Director of Church Action on Poverty), Councillor Jane Corbett (Cabinet Member for Social Inclusion, Fairness and Equalities), Kevin Peacock (CEO of St Andrews Community Network), Lynda Batterbee (Area Manager for the Trussell Trust), Archbishop Malcolm McMahon (Roman Catholic Archbishop of Liverpool) and Rev Phil Jump (Free Church Moderator for Merseyside).

 

Photos, comments and video clips are available on Twitter @feedinglpool

 

You can find the Press Release about the launch by clicking here 

You can find the programme from the launch event by clicking here

You can find the PowerPoint from the launch event by clicking here

 
 

Feeding Liverpool event at LACE 13th January 2017

1. FL logo.jpg
 
 

Feeding Liverpool event at LACE 13th January 2017

led by June Rawlinson and Madeline Chipunza from Liverpool CAB

1.      June and Madeline presented the ‘dashboard’ reports for the second and third quarters of 2016-2017 (year commencing in April) which CAB provides each quarter for Liverpool City Council. The headlines were that in each quarter Liverpool CAB receives around 15,000 enquiries from around 9,000 clients, just more than half of which concern benefits or tax credits and around a quarter concern debt. The total amount of debt owed by the clients in each quarter was around £3m and in the year to date (i.e. the first three quarters) almost £3m of debt was written off and almost £3m of other financial gain was found for clients (e.g. grants or unclaimed benefits).

2.      The most common benefit issue was the Personal Independence Payment (around 34%/38%) and 61%/65% of clients had some form of disability or long term health problem. Government statistics indicate that around 19% of adults in the UK have a disability or long term health problem.

3.      Most clients attending CAB are middle-aged. There has been a lot of publicity about youth poverty and youth debt but young people do not often access CAB help: there was speculation that they could be more likely to use online help services or services targeted at young people.

4.      The top debt issue was Council Tax Arrears (15%/17%). The background to this is that before recent welfare ‘reforms’ people on benefit received 100% discount on Council Tax, so they are not used to paying it. Now they receive 92% discount, but the remaining 8% is still a large burden for those on very low incomes, and when people are having to choose between paying something off their rent arrears to avoid eviction, paying utility bills and buying food, Council Tax, which was always unpopular, does not seem to have such a high priority. Liverpool City Council has tried hard to avoid putting undue pressure on those owing Council Tax Arrears and had a policy agreed with the CAB but recent changes to legislation have led to some problems with bailiffs arriving without due notice. A further complication is that if you miss one payment on a monthly payment plan, you become liable for the whole annual amount, unless you contact the Council and renegotiate the payment plan but, having missed one or more payments, the new amount will inevitably be higher and therefore harder to pay.

5.      Council Tax Arrears, combined with relatively high numbers of citizens on benefit receiving 92% discount and relatively low property prices, impact on the City Council’s budget and render the Government’s recent decision to allow Councils to bring forward a 3% in Council Tax almost irrelevant in Liverpool. At  recent briefing of Church leaders, Mayor Anderson had explained the massive cuts in Central Government Funding of the City, which has already seen its budget cut by 58% (whereas some Shire Counties had been cut by as little as 3%)and faces a shortfall of £58m in the coming year. The Mayor had called for Church leaders to join in a political campaign to change the basis of the allocation of Central Government Funding.

6.      Concerns were raised about the ability to increase the re-payments rates of Council Tax and of Council Tax arrears.  This concern relates to the falling rates of benefits and benefit cap introduction, labour market changes, and the increased cost of living.  Advice agencies can support the City Council in promoting the greater repayment of Council Tax and Council Tax Arrears to create a win-win; but to do so would further tighten the income expenditure balance. The CAB, although dealing with around 9,000 clients in each quarter, had issued only 425 foodbank vouchers in the second quarter and 511 in the third. No statistics were available about how many foodbank vouchers were issued or redeemed in Liverpool as a whole, nor about what proportion of CAB clients are offered foodbank vouchers but refuse them, nor about whether CAB clients may have received foodbank vouchers from other providers. In line with Trussell Trust guidance, CAB and other Debt Advice centres only offer vouchers when the client is in immediate food crisis, i.e. has not eaten and has no prospect of being able to eat in the next day or so. Food crisis does not always happen at the same time as debt crisis or benefit issue crisis. CAB sometimes refers clients to other food providers rather than foodbanks, e.g. community feeding centres. Some clients are very reluctant to accept foodbank vouchers.

7.      CAB includes information about Credit Unions in the financial skills training it offers and sometimes refers clients to Credit Unions, as do some foodbanks and other Debt Advice centres.

8.      There was discussion of the Foodbank Plus model: some foodbanks have trialled different models for getting external agencies to offer some additional services at the point of foodbank delivery and there are anecdotal reports of some success, others report that clients are not willing to engage with other services. One example, in Bootle, works well where a particular advice worker has excellent communication skills, dresses informally and connects well with clients, but this is unusual. We were not aware of any published research into the effectiveness of providing such additional services. The North Liverpool Foodbank has concentrated on training the volunteers to make the most of the contact they have, trying to find one step which will help each individual’s situation, sometimes making a phone call or appointment for them.

9.      June reported on the frustration of giving advice to clients, setting out the steps they need to follow, but knowing that many of them, especially those with mental health problems, have little chance of successfully negotiating the system to a successful outcome. Some Job Centres and some individual Job Centre staff are more helpful than others.

10.  Some help centres, including foodbanks, provide computers with online access to allow clients to carry out the tasks required by the system, but some Housing Associations have reported underuse of such facilities when provided.

11.  Trussell Trust have asked DWP to provide a ‘hotline’ facility for foodbanks and debt advice centres to be able to advocate on behalf of clients as the average wait to get through to a Job Centre by phone is 45 minutes.

12.  June reported that the structure of CAB in Liverpool is about to change: multiple centres will be maintained but under a central management system. Some branches have closed and the availability of independent services often varies because they depend on short term funding. Having trialled an ‘appointment only’ system, CAB has reverted to trying to deal with every enquiry when people turn up. Waiting times vary but anyone arriving within the advertised opening hours will be seen.

13.  Utility companies vary greatly in their treatment of clients with arrears, and practice within the same company can vary with a change in local management. June circulated a report on the experience of CAB clients in North Liverpool in the winter of 2015/16 entitled ‘The Heating or Eating Quandary’ which details shocking experiences, including 27% of respondents have gone without meals so their children could eat. The experiences reported were worse for social housing residents than for homeowners and worse again for private tenants. Problems were also more severe for those on prepayment meters.

14.  Madeline highlighted concerns about the deductions for debts from the new Universal Credit. Legislation allows up to 40% of the entitlement to be deducted to pay off debts (i.e. up to £29 out of a typical Universal Credit entitlement of £76 per week) but DWP has refused to disclose what system they are using to prioritise which debts are enforced with deductions and in what amounts. One example is that Magistrate Court Fines, which are  ‘Priority Debts’ when they are deducted from legacy benefits (income support, income-related ESA, Income- based Job Seekers, etc.) it is at £5 per week.  For those claimants on Universal Credit they will see much higher weekly amounts deducted of up to 40% of their standard allowance.   Kevin raised the question of which utility companies, private landlords and other agencies had contracts with DWP to reclaim their debts via these deductions, which seem to be disregarding the agreed practice of individual choice – and may impact on an individual’s ability to afford food, energy and other day to day items. Kevin reported that Debt Advice services had seen Universal Credit statements where the deductions, including sanctions, resulted in a zero total – no benefit being paid to the claimant. The decisions appear to be made automatically at centres remote from the claimant, raising concerns about the opportunity for a person to self-advocate and discuss their personal situation. We agreed that this specific question of the policy governing deductions from Universal Credit should be referred to Frank Fields via Andrew Forsey.

 

 
 

The Impact of Welfare Reform for Women and their Health

 

FL PIC.JPG
 
 

Feeding Liverpool

The Impact of Welfare Reform for Women and their Health

26th September 2017

 

There were two speakers at this Feeding Liverpool event: Ruth Patrick spoke on ‘Living with Welfare Reform’ and Annette James spoke on ‘Food Insecurity and Health’. This sheet brings together some of the key messages, from the talks and from the contributions of conference participants who came from a range of organisations including foodbanks, CAB, The Food People, Mencap, Asylum Link, debt advice centres and community groups.  The event brought together research findings and lived experience, statistics and stories.

 

The PowerPoint of Ruth Patrick's talk can be downloaded by clicking here.

The PowerPoint of Annette James' talk can be downloaded by clicking here.

Observations of the day can be read by clicking here.

 

1.   WELFARE REFORM

Policy assumptions

  • Work is the best route out of poverty.
  • Welfare reform was necessary to improve incentives to enter work and avoid welfare dependency.
  • Poverty is largely about individuals and their ‘pathways to poverty’.

 By contrast, research and the experience of front-line practitioners show that the successive rounds of welfare reform and the roll-out of Universal Credit have brought a clear mismatch between the policy narrative and real life:

  • Most people want to work – for fulfilment as well as higher income.
  • People’s income can still be too low to manage even when they are working, especially when so many are in unstable employment, are on zero hours contracts, have to combine several very low paid, part-time jobs.
  • Welfare reform has had negative – and even perverse – consequences. People can move further from the labour market as a result of benefit changes, perhaps because of increased stress but also because of the practical inability to undertake training and volunteering as part of their job search requirements.
  • Factors such as addiction, worklessness or family breakdown are often cited as causes of poverty rather than the consequences of it.
  • People on benefits are widely stigmatised.
  • Being on benefits is hard work, entails tight budgeting and facing decisions such as ‘heat or eat’.

 

Problems with the benefits process

  • The process can be demoralising as Isabella’s story illustrates.  
  • Concerns include: (a) payment delays and the impact this can have on short term household budgets; (b) assessment in the case of especially vulnerable people.

  •  Apart from the financial effect of changes to multiple benefits, repeat assessments themselves have a cumulative stressful impact.
  •  The experiences of claimants echo those of people in the asylum system.
  •  The system stifles people’s free choice.  They are put in a position where they feel under pressure to take any job rather than an appropriate one.          
  •   The question was raised as to whether work is always a desirable outcome given childcare or other caring responsibilities and illness.
  • Legal aid is being withdrawn at the same time as welfare reform, but in appeals an ‘expert’ letter is more likely to be believed than the person his/herself.
  • Those administering the benefits process are themselves under pressure to meet targets or demands ‘from on high’.

 

Impact on Women

  • Women are amongst the hardest hit by welfare reform, especially the Benefit Cap and two child limit.
  • Single parents (most of whom are women) are amongst the most affected.
  • Cumulative impact assessments of tax and benefit changes show women in the lowest income groups (and especially BME women) are disproportionately affected. (Women’s Budget Group, 2017)
  • Single parent households represent 71% of those subject to the benefit cap (45,000 families together caring for > 100,000 children (Gingerbread, 2017)
  • David Webster from Glasgow University has noted particularly high rates of sanctions among pregnant women. Given the importance of ante-natal care, this has serious health implications.
  • There can be inherent tensions between meeting the demands of DWP and caring roles; for example, a conflict with parenting responsibilities when appointments clash with school events.
  • Domestic violence and its impact seems to be a recurring story. People move from place to place and have to make a fresh start each time, away from support of family and friends.

 

2.   FOOD INSECURITY

Mythology suggests that food poverty arises because people are unable to budget properly or do not know how to shop and cook well.  Research, however, shows that the key causes are insufficient money, lack of access to affordable food and/or lack of equipment or fuel for storage and cooking.

School holidays are particularly difficult for families because of the need to compensate for the lack of school dinners.

 

Food insecurity and health

Diseases impacted by diet include

  • Obesity
  • High blood pressure
  • Coronary heart disease
  • Many forms of cancer
  • Metabolic disorders
  • Pre-diabetes and type II diabetes
  • Effects on bone density
  • Anaemia – iron deficiency
  • Chronic health problems caused by deficient vitamin intake

 

There were reports in 2015 of the return of rickets in the UK as a result of dangerously poor diets and GPs are now having to refer people to foodbanks. Hospital diagnoses of malnutrition nearly doubled between 2009 and 2013 and more than 7,000 people were admitted to hospital with a primary or secondary diagnosis of malnutrition between August 2014 and July 2015.

The impact of poverty – especially on physical and mental health – builds up over time. Food insecurity also has serious consequences for the mental health of adults and children.  There is a high prevalence of depression and anxiety amongst foodbank users.

 

What can be done – Community eating initiatives?

For the foreseeable future, food aid will continue to be required.  In addition to foodbanks in Liverpool, a range of other activities set out to make a difference such as:  Whitechapel Centre working with homeless people; Asylum Link supporting destitute asylum seekers; Can Cook – share you lunch campaign; neighbours cooking for neighbours; initiatives to reduce waste and ones to encourage growing fresh produce.

 

What can be done strategically?  

The city is attempting to tackle poverty and inequality – and the associated food insecurity – in various ways:

  • The City-Wide Strategy Group on Fairness and Tackling Poverty, bringing together public, private and voluntary sector bodies.
  • The city’s Obesity Strategy
  • Liverpool Food People working for a sustainable food city.
  • Liverpool Play Partnership providing play and food during school holidays.
  • ‘Taste for health’ – a strategy for the city to change the food culture.
  • Feeding Liverpool – bringing together front-line deliverers of food aid and other partners to exchange good practice, raise awareness and draw out policy messages.

 

Conclusions

  • The evident failure of welfare policy achieving its declared objectives underlines the need to learn from what is happening:
  • It is important to hear the voices of those who are experts by experience and involve them in the policy debate. It is particularly valuable to track people’s experience over time.
  • It is important to recognise the needs of the most vulnerable groups of women – during pregnancy, suffering domestic violence, those with a disability or with mental health problems – and take steps to protect them.
  • Everyone involved in working with people in poverty and requiring food aid has a role to play in documenting the impact of welfare reform and giving support to those directly affected.
  • The policy messages heard today need to be articulated: not just the negative ones of systemic deficiencies but also the positive ones of the valuable contributions claimants often make – beyond paid work – through volunteering and caring responsibilities.
  • The most effective approach is an asset-focused one, recognising people’s right to food, right to health, right to be respected: ‘If you have come to help then you can go away but if you have come because your liberation is tied up with ours then you are welcome.   (Lilla Watson, black social worker, US)

 

 

Useful reading

 

  • Ruth Patrick, For whose benefit: The everyday realities of Welfare Reform, Policy Press, 2017
  • Kayleigh Garthwaite: Hunger Pains: Life inside foodbank Britain, Policy Press, 2016
  • Stephen Crossley, In Their Place: The Imagined Geographies of Poverty, Pluto Press, 2017

 

 
 

Universal Credit Event - 23rd March 2018

The latest Feeding Liverpool gathering happened on 23rd March 2018. The gathering focused on Universal Credit.

 

Notes of the meeting can be found  by clicking here.

Notes from the table groups can be found by clicking here.

The DWP presentation can be found by clicking here.

The Feeding Liverpool - Universal Credit Briefing presentation can be found by clicking here.