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Social workers report worsening food security with “rampant” use of food banks

Two-thirds (64%) of social workers have reported concerns about families being able to provide food for children, according to new research.

11/02/22

Social workers report worsening food security with “rampant” use of food banks

New figures, from the campaign group Food Is Care, have uncovered a scale of food poverty and insecurity not seen before.

Social workers interviewed by the group claimed that families they work with are compromising on the quality of food to save money (71%), compromising on the quantity of food consumed to save money (59%) and skipping meals (55%).

Two-thirds (64%) of social workers have reported concerns about families being able to provide food for children.

Over four-fifths (84%) said the vulnerable children and families they work with rely on food banks.

Over the past 12 months over half (52%) report food poverty and insecurity has got dramatically worse with a further 35% saying it has got somewhat worse.

Dominic Watters, a single dad and social worker, who runs the Food Is Care campaign, said the campaign is “letting those in power know that poor, often single parent families in council estates, are hungry and feel unheard.”

“The issue of food has been off the table for too long because social work leaders are out-of-touch with the daily living experience of poverty.

John McGowan, General Secretary of the Social Workers Union, said: “Independent foodbanks continue to pick up the pieces yet again as more and more people struggle to pay the bills.

“There needs to be a realisation that we cannot continue to provide an emergency response to a long-term crisis.

“Amid a pandemic which has brought the hidden struggles of many to the fore, the time is right to make that case for the right to food to be realised by all. Food poverty used to be an abstract concept to a lot of people.

“Now it has ceased to be something that affects only a handful of people but unfortunately is the reality of life for millions. We’re proud to be supporting this vital Food Is Care campaign.”

One social worker, responding to the survey, told researchers that food poverty is “rampant”, while another said: “Food insecurity and hunger on our youngest children whilst they are developing their brains and attachment has a life-long effect – many of our looked after children have significant issues with food as a result of the poverty, neglect and lack of good enough care including food despite being removed into care and moving on to better family life.”

Another social worker said she was “horrified” to discover the number of people in work but needing to use food banks because they can't keep warm and eat.

Despite the extent of the problem revealed by the research only a few social workers (6%) felt they had sufficient training to deal with the issue. Eight in ten (82%) added that the issue should be included in the British Association of Social Workers’ (BASW) Professional Capabilities Framework, Department of Education Knowledge and Skills Statement, and Social Work England’s professional standards.

Dominic Watters from the Food is Care campaign said that professional bodies should view this as an opportunity to make food insecurity a part of their core practice guidance to help address inequality.

“Our unique survey not only shows how widespread this issue is, but also an undeniable connection between food insecurity and social work.”

“The fact it is taking a single dad from a deprived council block and not the policymakers to request this change is in itself a demonstration of the discrimination poor people experience.”

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