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Last year, food banks in the Trussell Trust network distributed a record 1.6 million emergency food parcels throughout the UK. This marks yet another rise in the already huge use of food banks. But the fact is that we not only know how this has come to this pass, but also how to tackle this issue.

There aren’t large numbers of new food banks opening in our network. Nor have we changed the way people are referred to us for help. Food banks have not become more ‘available’ to people in the last year, yet here we are with a 19% year-on-year increase in demand. In a society like ours that values justice and compassion, that hundreds of thousands of men, women and children must use food banks is an affront to us all.

In order to right this national wrong, we must first understand how it came to pass. We are told by government that: “the reasons why people use food banks is complex, so it’s wrong to link a rise to any one cause.” But we know that people go hungry because they simply don’t have money.

It’s true that the tide of poverty rises and falls, influenced by many factors. Low pay, insecure hours, family breakdown, disability or illness make life more expensive and make it harder to work. These life events can quickly sweep people into poverty. The ongoing housing crisis and wider economic stagnation continue to inch the poverty level upwards. Our own research bears this out. When we surveyed people in food banks, we found that people with disabilities and illnesses, families with children and single parents massively overrepresented.

But, crucially, we also know how to bring poverty levels down again. Decent, well paid work and a compassionate, properly-funded social security system puts money back into families’ pockets and keeps people’s heads above water. Steps to build more homes and a more just economy have cross-party support.

Not only do we know the levers to pull to end poverty – we’ve already been pulling them. In the last two Autumn Statements, for example, we saw billions of pounds put back into Universal Credit. While those billions don’t fix everything, and represent only a small proportion of the money removed from the social security system since 2010, they slow the rising tide of poverty. Directly because of these actions more people’s heads are above water and they can get on with their lives.

Every evidence-based action government takes to tackle poverty nationally will make a real difference to millions of people’s lives now, and in the future. That’s why we have called to end the five week wait for the first Universal Credit payment.

We’re not alone in thinking financial support is needed to bridge the gap this five week wait creates. I was a member of the advisory group for the recent Bright Blue study into Universal Credit. The consensus we reached comes through clearly in the report: “The biggest challenge faced by claimants is the initial waiting period of at least five weeks, which most claimants in fact struggle with.” If Universal Credit is to be the future of our benefits system it is crucial that we get it right and get money to people when they need it rather than plunging them further into debt.

To end poverty, hunger and the need for food banks will not be easy and we face significant challenges. Currently the Brexit debate is devouring parliamentary time and attention. Amber Rudd, who pledged a more compassionate social security system and acknowledged the link between welfare reform and increased food bank demand is the fifth Secretary of State for Work and Pensions in three years. We urgently need a period of stability at the top of the Department for Work and Pensions if the department is to make the changes we need to arrest soaring demand for food banks.

But this accelerating increase in demand for food banks shames us all. We know what is causing this. We know how to fix this. We know positive action will alleviate poverty now and in the future. In a society underpinned by justice and compassion, I cannot see what should be a higher priority for us all.

Garry Lemon is the Director of Policy, External Affairs & Research at The Trussell Trust. The views expressed in this article are those of the author, not necessarily those of Bright Blue.