Universal Credit concerns as Norwich Foodbank use grows
New figures released today (Tuesday) show a 10% increase in emergency food supplies given to local people by Norwich foodbank between April and September 2017, compared to the same period in 2016, with worries that Christmas and the rollout of Universal Credit could worsen the situation.
4,773 three day emergency food supplies were provided to local people in crisis by Norwich foodbank between April 1 and September 30, 2017, marking a 10% increase compared to the same period in the previous year. Of this number, 1,448 went to children. To meet this deman over 46 tonnes of food were donated to the charity by the local community in that period.
Norwich foodbank, a member of The Trussell Trust’s network, which has today reported a 13.8% increase in foodbank use across the East of England, believes the local increase is due to people struggling with continued issues of delayed or changed benefit payments, low wages and insecure work.
Norwich foodbank is concerned about the future rollout of full Universal Credit in the local area, following evidence from other foodbanks in The Trussell Trust’s network about the issues people referred to them have experienced with the new system. Analysis of Trussell Trust foodbanks in areas of full Universal Credit rollout shows that foodbanks in these areas have seen a 30% average increase six months after rollout compared to a year before, compared to an average increase of 12% of foodbanks not in full Universal Credit rollout areas.
The 6+ week waiting period for a first payment can contribute to debt, mental health issues and rent arrears. The effects of these can last even after people receive their Universal Credit payments, as bills and debts pile up. Norwich foodbank is preparing to help prevent local people affected going hungry but is troubled by the extra pressure this puts on food donation stocks and volunteers’ capacity.
The Trussell Trust is calling on policy makers to take action on a five point plan to prevent people facing hunger through the introduction of the Universal Credit system. These measures include cutting the six week waiting period, improving administration and offering a transition between legacy benefits and the Universal Credit.
At the same time a number of factors around Christmas such as cold weather and high energy bills, or foodbanks and referral agencies ensuring that people who are likely to hit crisis have food ahead of Christmas Day, mean The Trussell Trust’s foodbank network traditionally sees a spike in foodbank use.
Norwich foodbank is asking the community to help them prepare for their busiest time of year by ensuring Christmas donations reach the warehouse by December, 8 so they can be passed on to those in need in time for Christmas Day. Also, if a large collection is being planned, at a workplace, school or group of friends, please do let the charity know so they can talk to you about storage and arrange delivery.
Hannah Worsley, Project Manager of Norwich foodbank said: “It’s really worrying that we are still seeing an increase in need for emergency food across Norwich. However, we’re also concerned that not everyone who needs our help is getting the support they need. We will continue to work hard to make sure anyone who falls into crisis is able to access the foodbank.
"Every week people are referred to us after something unavoidable - like illness, a delayed benefit payment or an unexpected bill - means there’s no money for food. It’s only with local people’s help that we’re able to provide vital support when it matters most, and whilst we hope one day there’ll be no need for our work, until that day comes we’ll be working hard to help prevent people going hungry.
"Thank you so much to everyone who already donates time, food and money to help local people. We couldn’t do it without you!"
Mark Ward, Interim Chief Executive at The Trussell Trust, said: “We’re seeing soaring demand at foodbanks across the UK. Our network is working hard to stop people going hungry but the simple truth is that even with the enormous generosity of our donors and volunteers, we’re concerned foodbanks could struggle to meet demand this winter if critical changes to benefit delivery aren’t made now.”
The running costs for the foodbank are raised locally and through grant applications to enable them to continue their work. Costs include office space, volunteer driver expenses who collect and deliver food, and other overheads like utilities and insurances. The foodbank welcomes any new offers of help with funding. Local businesses, organisations and individuals interested in supporting the foodbank’s work can find out more at www.norwichfoodbank.co.uk
To contact Hannah Worsley, Norwich foodbank Project Manager please email email@example.com