Foodbank charity The Trussell Trust has been accused of misleading donors after it emerged more than 90 per cent of the money it distributes goes on non-food items – including diversity courses, debt counsellors and advisers who help people claim state benefits.
The charity’s Christmas fundraising appeals give the strong impression that public donations are spent directly on food for families in need.
One message predicts more than one million emergency food parcels will be given out between December and February and warns: ‘Food banks are already at breaking point.’
But it was facing a backlash last night after it emerged the charity spent £18.6 million of donations on ‘financial inclusion’, employing professional benefits advisers and debt counsellors.
The charity’s Christmas fundraising appeals give the strong impression that public donations are spent directly on food for families in need
A further £7.2 million went on admin costs such as marketing, political campaigns, and staff salaries. It also funded woke ‘equality, diversity and inclusivity’ training courses.
Tory party deputy chairman Lee Anderson, who was a Citizens Advice volunteer before entering politics, said: ‘It’s an industry making money out of poor people and they are taking the p***.
‘Those who need advice on benefits and debt can go to a Citizens Advice Bureau or go online.
‘It’s a money-making racket which pays its chief executive a ridiculous amount of money.
‘They should be clear what they’re fundraising for and the vast majority of that should go on food. But it’s not.’
The charity’s highest-paid employee, thought to be chief executive Emma Revie, earns between £100,000 and £110,000 a year, according to its latest accounts.
Tory MP Nigel Mills added: ‘If you say you’re using [donations] to feed people in need then that’s what you should do with the money. Otherwise, it is misleading.’
In its two most recent fundraising emails, the Trussell Trust mentions food banks ten times and food nine times.
Around 57 per cent of the charity’s expenditure went directly to food banks and a further 23 per cent on programmes to support them (Stock photo)
Tory party deputy chairman Lee Anderson, who was a Citizens Advice volunteer before entering politics, said: ‘It’s an industry making money out of poor people and they are taking the p***’
There is only one reference to debt and nothing about benefits advice.
Last night, the Charity Commission confirmed it had investigated a complaint that fundraising campaigns were misleading but decided it could take no action.
In 2021-22, the charity made grants totalling £28.3 million to its 1,300 independent food banks, mostly run by churches and community groups. ‘Financial inclusion’ accounted for 66 per cent of this, and admin 25 per cent.
The Trust makes clear in its annual report that it aims to end the need for food banks by ensuring its users can cope with debt and get the state benefits they’re entitled to.
It is not the first time the charity has been accused of misleading the public.
Eight years ago, fact-checkers at Full Fact concluded that its claim of distributing emergency food parcels to more than a million people was twice the true figure.
The same year it emerged that the charity had asked independent food banks to pay £1,500 towards its staff and other admin costs.
Last night, Ms Revie insisted its email appeal was ‘transparent’ and that all donations went to its ‘charitable objectives’.
Around 57 per cent of the charity’s expenditure went directly to food banks and a further 23 per cent on programmes to support them.
Ms Revie said: ‘Donations will help provide support to people facing hardship now, while working towards longer-term solutions.
‘We believe these emails are not misleading and do not imply money donated to the Trussell Trust would only be used to purchase food.’
She added food banks generally did not need cash to buy food as they had enough stock from supermarkets and local communities.
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