By Sean Clare BBC News
The young people going hungry in the UK this winter
The sometimes “heavy-handed” use of benefit sanctions has been partly blamed for the rise of food banks. But what does that mean for the young people at the sharp end?
“I’d love to be able to afford some vegetables, I really would,” says 19-year-old Yasmin.
“Being a qualified cook, I’d love to make myself a nice risotto or something. But I’m not rich; I’m not posh. I can’t afford nice food.”
For the last year Yasmin has been living at the YMCA in Burton-upon-Trent.
She is one of an estimated four million people in food poverty – without enough money to make healthy eating choices.
The counter-intuitive reality – particularly for poorer women – is perfectly illustrated by what she says next.
“I’ve gained loads of weight since I’ve lived in the YMCA because when I’m not eating my body stores the fat and makes me fatter. And then when I am eating, it’s just stuff like rice and cheap stodgy stuff. You can’t afford to eat nicely,” she says.
It’s a familiar story among the hostel’s young residents.
“You’re so hungry,” says 25-year-old Matt. “But you’re that sick of it you can’t even put it to your mouth. It’s horrible.”
The aspiring electrician’s prospects had been looking up. He was on a college course but was instructed by the job centre to take a two-week placement at Boots. By the time the placement was over, he had fallen behind and couldn’t meet the college’s required 97% attendance rate.
And then he had his jobseeker’s allowance stopped.
Matt and the other residents of the YMCA say that going door-to-door with their CVs, or ringing around employers no longer seems to satisfy officials at the job centre.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) sanctions regime, made tougher in 2012, means that those out of work can have their payments withdrawn for between a week and three years if they are deemed not to have been doing enough to find a job.
Matt says that when he told the job centre about his job searching efforts the response he got was like: “Handing your CV in, the searches you’ve done here – that’s not applying for work. So bye-bye, see you later.
“I’m going without money at the moment – no electric, no food………….Read more