Food banks have become a controversial topic ever since their usage increased rapidly after the recession. Some would argue that food banks are a giving service offering help to those in need. Contrasting views however, have caused a stir as some would question the high demand for food banks in the UK and argue that their purpose is being abused.
The Guardian recently revealed that there are at least 2,000 food banks operating in the UK, handing out emergency food parcels on a weekly basis to people in hardship. Furthermore, the number of people using food banks in the UK has risen by seven percent in the last year highlighting the increasing issue of food poverty.
Volunteers working for charities act as the driving force of their organisations. Without them, food banks simply wouldn’t function. According to the Belfast Telegraph “Food bank volunteers put in a staggering 4.1 million hours of unpaid work every year distributing food, fundraising and other duties”.
Like most charity workers, those working in food banks have to accommodate very vulnerable people, which naturally comes with its risks. A recent BBC article confirmed that one third of food bank users suffer from mental health problems.
Due to the charitable nature of food banks, people would expect its users to act considerately to the service and workers. Unfortunately this isn’t always the case, alarmingly there are soaring numbers of food bank worker incidents each year. In April 2015, police were called to the scene at an Abbotsford food bank after a worker was left feeling distressed when an aggressive user was threatening members of staff with a knife. This raises a serious question for organisations, can you afford to risk your charity workers lives? And therefore, can you risk not having a lone worker protection scheme in place?
What does this mean for charity food bank workers?
No matter what sector you are working in, as a lone worker dealing with vulnerable members of the public your personal safety can be at risk. Charity food bank staff are just as vulnerable as any other workers and therefore safeguarding their wellbeing is just as crucial.
Skyguard’s BS8484:2016 accredited Lone Worker Protection service reassures food bank volunteers that in an emergency situation they can call on professional help to react to any emergency. Skyguard work with a number of charitable organisations to do just that.