Use of food banks has spiralled as the coronavirus crisis has hit. That’s why we’re spearheading a sector-wide effort to provide funding for the Trussell Trust, writes Paul Dolan
Coronavirus has presented us with the biggest global battle in modern peacetime. A bug of microscopic proportions has driven the world to its knees and brought about global change at a rate matched only by the endemic spread of the virus itself.
For the first time in our history, streets have been rendered empty and the world has almost ground to a halt. But, against such a dark backdrop and among profound grief, paradoxically, we’re seeing a glimmer of light as the world begins to right itself.
Alongside the incredible work of the nation’s key workers and a global unity sparked by the common goal of overcoming the virus, collectivism and the resurgence of community spirit are holding our society together.
As housing associations, we know we provide the houses and flats, but it is the support and strength found in a community that makes them homes.
This is why many of us also deliver care and support services, and employment and training opportunities, by working in partnership with organisations that share our social purpose and ambition.
It’s that common belief, that togetherness, which has driven our sector to adapt and respond in new and inspiring ways to the challenges our residents now face.
Hardship resulting from the global pandemic has led to a huge surge in the number of people experiencing poverty and hunger, many for the first time.
During the final two weeks of March, the Trussell Trust experienced an 81% year-on-year increase in demand for its emergency food parcels. Worryingly, the number of parcels given to children rose by 122%.
“We must come together, more now than ever, and work with partner organisations, to address the many immediate coronavirus-related problems, and we should do this with the intention of maintaining and building on these relationships to make long-lasting change”
The trust, which runs a national network of 1,200 food banks, estimates it will need to provide 2.7 million emergency parcels – an increase of 900,000 – in order to meet rising demand over the next 12 months.
We would never have envisioned our role being to help meet a need as basic as having enough food to eat – but the fact is that, together, we are responsible for housing six million people, and therefore we are right on the frontline of this human crisis.
We must come together, more now than ever, and work with partner organisations, to address the many immediate coronavirus-related problems, and we should do this with the intention of maintaining and building on these relationships to make long-lasting change.
This is why Accent Housing launched a nationwide campaign to raise £1m for the Trussell Trust. The More than Homes campaign – backed by the National Housing Federation, the Chartered Institute of Housing and the Northern Housing Consortium – will help the UK-wide charity to meet both short and longer-term needs.
The money raised will support the trust, which is working not only to help people during the immediate crisis, but also over the coming months. It will fund the recruitment and deployment of at least 15,000 new volunteers; create a new delivery infrastructure to distribute hundreds of thousands of food parcels direct to people’s doors; create a new helpline service; secure food and supplies; and, among other things, provide recovery grants to food banks so they can adjust to increased demand and reconfigure services accordingly.
In the long term, the trust believes that no one should have to rely on a food bank and will be campaigning for change, in order to end the need for food banks in the UK.
Accent Housing owns and manages more than 20,000 homes across the North, East and South of England, so we’ve donated £50,000 to support the Trussell Trust’s national effort. However, others can choose between donating to the More than Homes national fund, and providing direct support to one or more of its 11 regional funds.
“We must contribute what we can afford in order to help people get through this awful time. But we also have to look further ahead, and consider how we can collectively help people to rebuild their lives so they are better than they were before this international crisis”
The fall-out from COVID-19 has highlighted how many people have been dealing with insecure employment, how many were just about managing to work while also looking after their children and vulnerable relatives, and how many relied on their kids eating at school for them to be healthy and well-fed.
As constants within our communities, we must contribute what we can afford to help people get through this awful time. But we also have to look further ahead, and consider how we can collectively help people to rebuild their lives so they are better than they were before this international crisis.
There are many coronavirus-related reasons that so many people are currently relying on food banks – job losses, reduced incomes and schools being closed are just three of them – but even before the pandemic hit, the Trussell Trust was already responding to a 20-30% year-on-year increase in demand.
The social problems that existed before lockdown are not going to go away once it’s over. In fact, they’re likely to get worse. There could be a large number of job losses when the government ends its furlough scheme, and poverty and hunger will increase as a result.
The problems our communities will face are bigger than any one organisation, and greater than any one sector. Housing associations are demonstrating that they are about More than Homes by funding the Trussell Trust’s work – we must now step up and contribute our resources, experience and expertise towards achieving fundamental change. As housing associations working together, we are well placed to drive the change that is needed.
Paul Dolan, chief executive, Accent Group