written evidence from the Trussell Trust CLP0036



About the Trussell Trust


  1. The Trussell Trust is a network of more than 1,300 local food bank centres across the UK, providing practical support for people who don’t have enough money for the things we all need in life. We believe that it’s not right that anyone needs a food bank in the first place – and that we can change this by ensuring everyone has enough income for the essentials. That’s why we also work with communities across the UK to change the things that are leaving people without enough money for the essentials, bringing together experiences, data, insight and evidence from food banks and the people who need them across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Together with thousands of volunteers and people who have used food banks across the UK, we share what we know to push for the changes that will ensure all of us have enough money to cover the essentials.
  2. For further information about this submission, please email Beatrice Orchard, Senior Policy and Public Affairs Manager at the Trussell Trust at: beatrice.orchard@trusselltrust.org


  1. Our submission is focused on the first question in the committee’s call for evidence ‘to what extent have the cost of living support payments been sufficient at helping eligible households meet the cost of essentials such as food and electricity?’
  2. The Trussell Trust collects data on the number of emergency food parcels distributed by food banks in our network. Between 1 April 2022 and 31 March 2023, food banks in the Trussell Trust network distributed close to 3 million (2,986,203) emergency food parcels. This is the most parcels the network has ever distributed in a financial year and represents a 37% increase from the same period in 2021/22.[1]
  3. Our data for 2022/23 also shows that when the cost of living support payments for people on an eligible low income benefit were made in July and November last year, there was a short-term reduction in need at food banks in the Trussell Trust network.
  4. However, the impact was short-lived with levels of need rising again not long after the payments had been made. In fact, food banks in the Trussell Trust network recorded their busiest ever August and December months in 2022.
  5. It is too early to fully analyse the impact of the latest cost of living support payment which is being distributed between 25 April and 17 May 2023. However, early indications from our emergency food parcel data suggest we may see a similar trend where the timing of the payment correlates with a reduction in need. We will be happy to provide further information to the committee on this in due course.
  6. Research we conducted with people in receipt of Universal Credit last year also found the July cost of living support payment was swallowed up quickly, and the payment was most commonly spent on essential items including food, basic toiletries and energy costs.
  7. While the evidence suggests the payments have helped people to meet the basic cost of living, the fact that these periods of respite were short-lived shows that one-off payments are unable to make a lasting difference when people’s regular income (from social security and from work) is just too low to enable people to afford the essentials.

July 2022 cost of living support payment

  1. In July 2022, the first cost of living support payment was made to people in receipt of eligible low income benefits. Our data on emergency food parcels given out across the Trussell Trust network shows that, following this, there was a short-term reduction in the number of parcels provided.

10.1.           In July, food banks in our network distributed 180,913 parcels to people facing financial hardship which was significantly lower than any previous month in that year (albeit still 12% higher than the same month in 2021). This is compared to an average of 220,000 parcels each month in the other five months in the first half of the financial year (April-September 2022).

10.2.           The July payment was made between 14 and 31 July. Between 27 June and 10 July (the two weeks preceding the payment) food banks in the Trussell Trust network distributed on average over 7,200 parcels a day. In the following three weeks (11 July – 31 July) when the payment started to come through to people, this fell to just over 5,500 parcels on average a day. This represents a 24% decrease in the daily average.

10.3.           Further analysis of our data has also confirmed we would not expect to see such a significant dip in July compared to the rest of the year. In July 2022, there was a 15% decrease in the number of emergency food parcels given out compared to the previous month, whereas often we would see a modest increase from June to July. Outside of the pandemic year of 2020/21, a decrease of 4% is the biggest decrease we have seen when comparing June to July. This indicates that the July 2022 decrease is not a normal aspect of seasonal affects.

  1. This suggests that the payment provided some crucial respite for families struggling to afford the essentials. However, the impact of this was only very short-term, with levels of need quickly rising again and food banks in the Trussell Trust network recording their busiest ever August.

November 2022 cost of living support payment

  1. We see a similar trend in our data following the second cost of living support payment, distributed between 8 and 30 November 2022. Winter months are generally when the highest level of need is seen at our network of food banks. In the last five years we have seen a month-by-month rise from October to December (when the number of parcels distributed peaks), with levels remaining high throughout January.
  2. When analysing the data for 2022/23, we see that whilst the cost of living support payment has not managed to change this trend, the November rise was less marked than we would normally expect. This year there was less than a 1% increase (0.2%) from October (238,334) to November (238,723), which is lower than any other October to November increase since 2017/18.
  3. However, as in July when need dipped and then surged in August, the same pattern was seen in the winter with need rising after the payments in November and peaking in December. With the exception of April 2020 during the first lockdown, December has always been the busiest month and there is usually an increase of around 30% from November usage rates. This time there was a 39% increase and December 2022 became the busiest month on record at food banks in the Trussell Trust network with a total of 332,835 parcels distributed.
  4. The graph below shows that at the time each cost of living support payment was distributed there was a short-term reduction in need for emergency food parcels from food banks in the Trussell Trust network, however, very shortly afterwards that need increased again.

Further research on the impact of the cost of living support payments

  1. In August 2022, we also worked with YouGov to survey people in receipt of Universal Credit about the impact of the July cost of living support payment for people on an eligible low income benefit.[2]
  2. This research showed the payment had a marginal impact on people’s financial situation.
  3. One fifth (21%) of people said the payment had improved their current financial situation by a ‘great deal’ or a ‘fair amount’. The table below provides further detail.

Table 1: Survey question on impact of July 2022 cost of living support payment on financial situation.

Please could you tell us to what extent the cost of living payment has…

Base: People claiming Universal Credit who have received cost of living payment



A great deal

A fair amount

Just a little

Not at all

Don’t know

Prefer not to say

Improved your current ability to afford the essentials (such as food, clothing and paying the bills)







Prevented you from needing to borrow money to get by (from friends, family, or lenders)?







Prevented you from falling into arrears on bills?







Improved your current financial situation?








  1. This research also supports the evidence from our food parcel statistics – that the cost of living support payments have not had a long-lasting impact.
  2. Half (50%) of people who received the payment said they were not very, or not at all, likely to be able to manage their household budget over the next three months without having to look for additional help (e.g. using credit / borrowing from friends or family / borrowing money from other sources).
  3. Less than a quarter (23%) of people said the payment had allowed them to save a small amount of money.
  4. The payment was used up quickly, most commonly on essential items including food, basic toiletries and energy costs.
  5. Most (70%) people who had received the July payment said they had already spent all of it when surveyed in August, less than a month after receiving it. Almost two in three (64%) said they had used the payment to buy food. However, the table below shows there are many other essential costs that the money was also spent on. This was made possible thanks to the payment providing an injection of cash which enabled people to invest in what they needed at that particular time. Cash provides choice and flexibility and means that people can prioritise their individual needs.

    Table 2: Survey question on how the July 2022 cost of living support payment was spent.

How have you (or your household) spent any of the £326 received from the cost of living payment in July? Please select all that apply.

Base: People claiming Universal Credit who have received cost of living payment


Used the money to buy food


Used the money to buy basic toiletries such as soap, shampoo, toothbrush, toothpaste or sanitary items


Used the money to pay off debts or arrears on bills


Used the money to pay to light my home


Used the money to pay to heat my home


Used the money to pay rent or mortgage payments


Used the money to buy appropriate clothes or shoes for the weather for my children


Used the money to cover travel costs to work or essential appointments (e.g. GP, school run, dentist or hospital appointments)


Used the money to buy appropriate clothes or shoes for the weather for myself and/or my partner


Used the money to pay for medical prescriptions, pain relief or other over the counter medication


Used the money to pay for repairs or an MOT for my car or motorbike


Used the money to replace a major electrical good/s that had broken (like a refrigerator, TV, washing machine, boiler)


Used the money to purchase adequate furniture for my home


Used the money to pay for essential dental treatment for myself or a member of my household


Other items [open] please specify


Don’t know/ can't recall


Prefer not to say



  1. In response to the open text question about how the payment had been used, several people also reported spending the money on mobile phone bills, school uniform, childcare, pet care, fans for the hot weather and connecting with family. Other comments included:

I've used the money to buy a carpet for my living room it will keep my room warmer during winter.

Back to school essentials and a mattress for the baby’s cot.

£326 didn’t go far when you need to buy new school uniforms, because even primary schools force you to buy uniform with the school logo on.

Paid down some debt, i.e. paid more than requested to reduce my balance and pay a little less interest.

Both cost of living payments are to be sent to my landlord instantly. Agreeing to small payment and both COL payments being transferred was only way to keep a roof over my head.

Moved room/house, it paid for the new deposit and rent which is higher than before, while I wait for my UC housing part to catch up.

  1. We know people turn to food banks because they can’t afford the essentials we all need. Throughout the past year, food banks have been telling us that people are being forced to take cold showers, turn off their fridges and stop using their washing machines because they can't meet rising costs.
  2. It is welcome, therefore, that the cost of living support payments have enabled people to spend the money on the essentials that meet their individual needs by providing a cash boost to incomes. However, if people are to have enough money to live with dignity, we need to see longer-term increases in regular incomes, such as through Universal Credit payments that are sufficient for people to afford the essentials, at all times. 


  1. The cost of living crisis has had a major impact on food bank need and it is welcome the Government has introduced measures to support those on the lowest incomes as the rising cost of living makes it even harder to afford the essentials. However, they – along with the other interventions introduced by the government over this period – were not enough to prevent this from being the busiest year ever within the Trussell Trust network.
  2. These record levels of food bank need are the realisation of a much longer-term issue which pre-dates the cost of living crisis, and even the COVID-19 pandemic, and that cannot be remedied with short-term payments.
  3. These crises have highlighted the problem that rising numbers of people are having to turn to food banks because they cannot afford food and other essentials, but they are not the main cause. Rather, they have exposed and exacerbated a longer-term crisis: that of a weakened social security system that is unable to protect people from the most severe forms of hardship, thereby forcing more people to the doors of food banks.
  4. Short-term responses, therefore, are neither sufficient nor sustainable, nor are they dignified for the people who are struggling. This is not helped by the short notice given for the cost of living support payment dates, which has been one month for each of the payments so far. This makes it very hard for people to factor into their budgeting.
  5. Furthermore, the one-off cost of living support also applies some of the same rules from the social security system that leave people without sufficient income to afford the essentials, including food. This is particularly the case in relation to sanctions. People who have a Universal Credit claim but receive a ‘nil award’ due to a sanction during the qualifying period for a cost of living support payment are not entitled to receive the payment. This leaves people who are already struggling without additional support.
  6. This is why we, alongside JRF and over 90 other organisations, are calling on the UK Government to implement an Essentials Guarantee.[3] This would embed in our social security system the widely supported principle that, at a minimum, Universal Credit should protect people from going without essentials. Developed in line with public attitude insights and focus groups, this policy would enshrine in legislation:
  7. More details of this policy proposal, its modelled impacts and research methodology can be found in An Essentials Guarantee: Technical Report.[4]
  8. Only with this long-term reform can the Government meet its promise to protect the most vulnerable by ensuring people always have sufficient income to meet their essential living costs when they face setbacks.



May 2023

[1] The Trussell Trust (April 2023) Emergency food parcel distribution in the UK: April 2022 – March 2023, available at: https://www.trusselltrust.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2023/04/EYS-UK-Factsheet-2022-23.pdf

[2] A YouGov survey of 1,846 people in receipt of Universal Credit (UC) during August 2022, this included 1,646 who had received the first cost of living support payment of £326 for those on low income benefits.

[3] JRF (April 2023) More than 90 charities unite behind a powerful call on party leaders to guarantee essentials for low-income households amid rising hardship, available at: https://www.jrf.org.uk/press/90-charities-unite-behind-guarantee-essentials

[4] JRF and Trussell Trust (2023) An Essentials Guarantee: Technical Report https://www.jrf.org.uk/report/guarantee-our-essentials