Universal Credit shortfalls lead to heavy rise in Chichester Foodbank usage

Joanne Kondabeka, Manager of Chichester District Foodbank.
Joanne Kondabeka, Manager of Chichester District Foodbank.

Foodbank usage due to issues with benefits payments has risen by 36 per cent since the advent of Universal Credit, Chichester District Foodbank has reported.

The foodbank said it provided 460 three-day emergency food supplies to 1098 local people between April 1 and September 30 this year, of which 421 children were fed — a seven per cent increase on the same period last year.

It follows an effort to feed 364 people this summer — a 'slight increase' compared to last year — and a 15 per cent rise in emergency food parcels given out in spring between April 17, 2017 and March 18, 2018.

Joanne Kondabeka, Manager of Chichester District Foodbank, said the figures were a 'real concern'.

She added: "These figures don’t even cover our busiest time of year - as the colder weather draws in, we often find more people needing our help. It’s not right that anyone in Chichester District is being forced to turn to our foodbank.

“Our volunteers offer vital support when it matters most, but they should not need to. We want to see an end to local people needing emergency food – with a benefits system that catches people before they fall into crisis, and secure work that provides people with enough money to cover the cost of essentials, we could reach that future."

The foodbank, a member of The Trussell Trust’s network which has last week reported a UK-wide increase in foodbank use, is concerned its help will be more vital in the next six months of the year.

It believes the local increase is due to people struggling with low income in a district with a high cost of living and since July 4 issues with Universal Credit.

Chichester District Foodbank shares these concerns about the government’s new benefits system, having needed to give emergency food and support to people who are waiting weeks for a first Universal Credit payment.

In its summer newsletter, the foodbank claimed that 32 per cent of families who needed its service were working but, due to living in a district with a high cost of living, they were 'struggling to manage'.

It added this was 'compounded' by the lack of social housing stock which has created a 'dependency on private rental', the price of which is often not covered fully because of the
benefit cap and so families have to find the short fall or 'fall into arrears'.

Joanne stressed that there needs to be 'some long-term change'.

"Since the roll out in July we have seen a 36 per cent rise in clients accessing the service due to benefits delays and changes compared to the same period last year, which has resulted in an extra 100 people fed," she said.

"We’re determined to make sure that until that time comes, emergency help is here for people, but there needs to be some long-term change because we don’t want to be here forever."

Chichester District Foodbank said it works with local schools to ensure it hits the right families, as it allows it to narrow down how many children are on free school meals due to low income and need vouchers.

Joanne continued: "We have seen an increased use of our scheme from last summer where we fed 303 children and gave out 827 parcels. During the summer children can have up to fortnightly food lunch packs, but not all families collect all 3.

"We have around 150 volunteers across the four sites in the district and at present do not need any more.

"So as our service continues to grow to meet the increasing demand we would like to thank all our supporters who partner with us to end hunger in this district by donating food, finance and time, your generosity makes a real difference to those facing food poverty."

The foodbank is particularly in need of sponge puddings, tinned meat, tinned vegetables, pasta sauce, rice pudding, tinned fruit and tinned fish.

Other shortage items include; tinned spaghetti, potatoes, custard, milk and jam.

The charity has asked for festive donations to be donated by the end of November at the latest to ensure volunteers have enough time to process and distribute these donations to people before Christmas.

Have Universal Credit shortfalls left you struggling and in need of support from the foodbank? If you want to share your story, get in touch with us at 01243 534166

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