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The Trussell Trust end of year statistics show a record 2.5 million food parcels were distributed to people in crisis in the UK in the past year: An increase of 33% from the year prior and 128% from five years prior. This significant increase in the demand for emergency food supplies suggests a larger proportion of the population are struggling financially.

At Registry Trust, we maintain the Register of Judgments, Orders and Fines for the UK and Ireland, and have first-hand access to data concerning financial instability. In this blog, we assess the relationship between the number of emergency food parcels distributed by Trussell Trust services and the number of monetary County Court Judgments (CCJs), both of which act as indicators of financial vulnerability, at a regional level.

Using Trussell Trust data, the graph below highlights the continued increase in the number of emergency food parcels distributed in England, from 863,870 in 2015/2016 to 2.1 million in 2020/2021. The number of emergency food parcels distributed in England increased from 2019/2020 to 2020/2021 by a significant 41%. In the same year, food parcel distribution increased in Northern Ireland by 75% (45,134 parcels to 78,827 parcels), and Wales by 8% (134,892 parcels to 145,828 parcels). On the other hand, the distribution of emergency food parcels in Scotland decreased by 7% (238,561 parcels to 221,554 parcels). With cities appearing to be hit hardest by the pandemic, the smaller number of large cities in Scotland may have buffered the detrimental economic effects there.

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A regional breakdown of the number of emergency food parcels distributed in England shows demand increased most significantly over the past year in London, at an increase of 106% (from 204,187 parcels to 421,426 parcels). The second highest increase was the South East (52% increase), followed by the West Midlands (34%), East Midlands (32%), the East (29%), North East (26%), South West (24%), North West (23%), and finally the smallest percentage change in Yorkshire and Humber (13%).

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The maps below illustrate the number of food parcels distributed and the number of CCJs in each region of the UK in 2020. As expected, due to its high population density, London had both the highest rate of CCJs (125,289) and the most emergency food parcels distributed (421,426). London was followed by the North West (99,186 CCJs and 313,015 food parcels), and the South West (47,292 CCJs and 302,905 food parcels). Northern Ireland received the fewest CCJs and distributed the fewest emergency food packages, at 3,795 CCJs and 78,827 food packages.

However, further investigation into the number of food parcels distributed and the number of CCJs in a region when accounting for population density (per 10,000 of the population) shows only a slight positive relationship between the two variables - nothing of significance. This means that there is almost no relationship between an increase in CCJs and increase in the use of food parcels.

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We must look at this in the context of Covid-19 though as the relationship between use of emergency food parcels and CCJs in 2020 may not be typical of previous years. Forbearance measures and debt embargos implemented by the UK government to protect consumers and businesses have limited the number of CCJs in the past year. The current removal or supportive measures may cause CCJ levels to peak. The correlation between the CCJs and the number of emergency food parcels distributed may have held a stronger correlation had forbearance measure not been introduced.

A stronger positive relationship could have been expected due to the common cause of reduced financial stability increasing the prevalence of both variables. It will be interesting to assess whether this relationship changes as we emerge from the pandemic.

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