A qualitative exploration of a financial inclusion service in an English foodbank

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Aims: Foodbanks provide emergency food provision. This need can be triggered by a change in circumstance or a crisis. Failures in the social security safety net are the most significant driver for hunger in the UK. There is some evidence that an advisory service which runs alongside a foodbank is more effective in reducing emergency provision and the duration and severity of hunger. The ‘Making a Difference’ project at an English foodbank is a pilot scheme aiming to increase financial resilience in their service users. From summer 2022, they introduced new advice worker roles, in partnership with Shelter [Housing advice] and Citizen’s Advice [General, debt and benefits advice], aiming to pre-empt the need for foodbank use, to triage the financial needs of service users and refer appropriately to reduce repeat visits to the foodbank. Methods: This qualitative study involved in-depth interviews with four staff and four volunteers to evaluate barriers, facilitators and potential friction points in referrals and partnership working. Findings: Our data were analysed thematically into four themes: Holistic needs assessment; Reaching seldom heard communities; Empowerment; The needs of staff and volunteers. Two case studies illustrate the complexity of people’s needs. Conclusion: A financial inclusion service operating within foodbanks giving housing, debt and benefits advice shows some promise in reaching people in crisis at the point of need. Based within the heart of a community, it appears to meet the complex needs of very vulnerable people who may have found mainstream support services inaccessible. This asset-based approach with the foodbank as a trusted provider enabled joined up, compassionate, holistic, and person-centred advice quickly cutting across multiple agencies, reaching underserved and socially excluded clients. We suggest that supportive services are needed for volunteers and staff who are vulnerable to vicarious trauma from listening and supporting people in crisis.

Original languageEnglish
JournalPerspectives in Public Health
Early online date12 Jul 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 12 Jul 2023


  • financial inclusion
  • foodbank
  • poverty

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