Financial advice is to be offered to people being referred to food banks after new research showed an “alarming” increase in those suffering money problems.
Food bank charity the Trussell Trust is launching a pilot scheme to give instant financial help and debt advice.
The move follows a six-figure donation by money saving expert Martin Lewis and could lead to the biggest change in how the charity’s network of 400 food banks operate since the trust was launched in 2000.
A survey of 4,000 adults showed that more than one in 10 took out a payday loan last year.
Some 900,000 people received three days’ emergency food from Trussell Trust food banks in the last financial year, an increase of 163% over the previous 12 months.
Trussell Trust chief executive David McAuley said: “It’s deeply concerning that the basics of dignified life in modern Britain - food, heat and electricity - can fall out of reach for so many.
“High prices, static incomes, problems with benefits and harsh welfare sanctioning are forcing people into extreme financial difficulty. When you’re facing stark choices between eviction or feeding the family, debt and high-interest loans can seem to offer a short-term solution; the reality is that this often forces finances to spiral out of control.
“By introducing a ‘financial triage’ service in food banks, where clients are able to connect with free financial and debt advice, people will be given professional help to manage tight finances, avoid payday lenders and structure debt to prevent the situation from getting worse and to help people break out of crisis much faster.”
Mr Lewis said: “I’ve been campaigning for financial education in schools for years - finally that starts on the curriculum in September - but that still leaves great swathes of our society, especially some of the most needy, struggling with even the basics of money management.
“Those who go to food banks are already open to asking for help. They’ve rightly prioritised the urgent need to feed themselves and their children. Yet if we can intervene at that point to start to get their financial lives back on track, by approachable, non-judgmental help, it will hopefully cut down the number of return visits.”
The pilot scheme will be launched next month in London, Wales, the Midlands, South West, North East and Scotland.