The Trussell Trust has taken the Overall Award at this year’s Charity Awards for its nationwide network of more than 400 food banks which provided emergency food parcels and support to more than a million people last year.
The Trussell Trust was chosen as the Overall Winner by this year’s judges from a total of ten category winners; it also won the top prize in the Social Care and Welfare category.
The network opened its first food bank in a garden shed 16 years ago, and now comprises 424 food banks running over 1,200 distribution centres with the help of more than 40,000 trained volunteers. Each food bank is supported by a network of around 25 schools, 30 churches, 25 businesses and around 80 frontline professionals, who, among other things, participate in a referral system to identify and support those in genuine need. Some four million people have donated food.
The charity uses its evidence base to lobby government agencies on benefits and other policies, and recently successfully persuaded ministers in Northern Ireland to adopt some changes to the new Universal Credit after it had caused problems in the rest of the UK.
And in 2014 it launched a new programme, ‘More Than Food’, which brings other support services into food banks, as research had shown that food banks’ signposting to other agencies had had limited success. Now the Trust is partnering with other charities and services to offer advice on benefits, housing, budgeting, even legal advice, from within its foodbanks.
Accepting the Overall Award from Rob Wilson, minister for civil society and John Low, chief executive of Overall Awards Partner Charities Aid Foundation, Trussell Trust chief executive David McAuley said: “I want to thank you for putting me in front of a government minister. We can’t get in front of government ministers because we are so vocal and we give the people a voice. And we actually put people up to say that this has to stop happening in the fifth most powerful economy in the world. We have got to do something to make a difference in the lives of these people. They are not spongers and scroungers and feckless. They are hardworking people.
“I want to make a difference and I want to help people. I want to sit down with government and challenge them to do things slightly differently, and give people a chance.
“I want to thank the 40,000 volunteers that turn up every week because without them we couldn’t do what we do.
“Thank you on behalf of the Trussell Trust and on behalf of my team and behalf of the trustees. I want to thank you for this award.”
Andrew Hind, chair of the Charity Awards judges, said: “The work of the Trussell Trust was greatly admired by the judges, who described the organisation as representing ‘21st Century charity writ large’.
“The Trust combines a professionally run foodbank network, and impressive management of data, with an ability to campaign effectively on the basis of constructive engagement with government.
“This powerful combination of service delivery and advocacy makes the Trussell Trust stand out as exceptional charity.”
Alongside the nine other category winners and the recipient of the Daniel Phelan Award for Outstanding Achievement, the Trussell Trust was presented with its two trophies at a star-studded black-tie ceremony at the Mermaid Theatre in London on Thursday 9 June, hosted by former BBC Breakfast presenter Bill Turnbull.
‘Charities need to get better’
Speaking at the awards, Low said that “many people think that the past year has been horrible for the charity sector”, and that “at times it has felt like we were on a non-stop conveyor belt of bad news stories”.
But, he said, many of the people in attendance at the awards have been involved in the world of charities a long time, and “know most of what lies behind these issues is not new”.
He said: “So why are we continually having to fight the same battles? Why do we have to justify paying our staff? How does anyone think it’s possible to run a major charity and spend nothing on overheads, on IT or HR for example?
“Part of the answer is that we need to get better – better at explaining what we do and how we do it, better at listening to our supporters and better at demonstrating that we can put our house in order.
“But, in all honesty, I don’t think these questions will ever really go away, simply because people are genuinely interested and care.”
He added: “The reason why charity is so ingrained in our way of life, why people are so inspired to support good causes – is because of you.
“So, when we’re looking to redress the balance after our ‘annus horribilis’ and to rebuild trust, I think the answer is in this room. You inspire others by your example and show how charities can be a force for good which changes lives for the better.”
Mark Goldring, chief executive of Oxfam GB, won the Daniel Phelan Award for Outstanding Achievement.
Click here to see the full list of winners and to read more about the Trussell Trust.