Food bank users in Great Yarmouth up 87pc since Universal Credit introduced

Alan Smith from the Salvation Army who is also a volunteer at the Great Yarmouth Foodbank.
Picture:

Alan Smith from the Salvation Army who is also a volunteer at the Great Yarmouth Foodbank. Picture: James Bass - Credit: Eastern Daily Press � 2014

The number of people relying on food banks is showing no sign of abating.

More than a year has passed since the introduction of Universal Credit (UC) in Great Yarmouth and more families than ever are relying on food parcels.

The figures for 2017 up to September are up 87pc compared to last year – a total of 6,409 units were given out up until the end of last month.

According to officials from the Great Yarmouth Food Bank the main cause has been delayed payments to claimants using the new UC benefits system.

Liz Townson, from the food bank, added: 'This varies from six to 14 weeks. At first we saw a quadrupling of demand – now it is up about 20pc.

Launch of the Great Yarmouth Foodbank.
Great Yarmouth Foodbank, run by volunteers and supported by t

Launch of the Great Yarmouth Foodbank. Great Yarmouth Foodbank, run by volunteers and supported by the borough council, is a partnership between three local churches: Great Yarmouth Salvation Army, Gorleston Baptist Church and St Mary Magdalene Church, in Gorleston. Picture: James Bass - Credit: Eastern Daily Press � 2014


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'We try to give food for the duration of the UC wait, and possibly a few more parcels if they've developed debt whilst waiting.'

Patricia Slade, from the food bank, said: 'I would expect food poverty to be the next expected cause, as people are now receiving universal credit, but the focus is paying off debt accrued whilst waiting for their benefits.'

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She said people had taken out loans to cover the gap between payments.

One 'unit' equates to a food parcel, going by a leading supermarkets prices it works out at about £13 per package.

Launch of the Great Yarmouth Foodbank.
Great Yarmouth Foodbank, run by volunteers and supported by

Launch of the Great Yarmouth Foodbank. Great Yarmouth Foodbank, run by volunteers and supported by the borough council, is a partnership between three local churches: Great Yarmouth Salvation Army, Gorleston Baptist Church and St Mary Magdalene Church, in Gorleston. (L TO R) Alan Smith, Ben Selfe, Rev Linda Ricketts, Mayor of Great Yarmouth John Burroughs and Liz Townson. Picture: James Bass - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2014

So far this year more than £83,000 worth of food and necessities have been handed out to those in need.

The food bank said people from all walks of life and all ages use it, from young parents to pensioners.

A DWP spokesperson said the reasons people use food bank use are 'complex'.

She added: 'It's misleading to link them to any one issue. UC lies at the heart of our commitment to help people improve their lives by providing additional tailored support to move into work and stop claiming benefits altogether.

'And it's working. With UC, people are moving into work faster and staying in work longer than under the old system.

'No one who needs support should have to wait six weeks. That's why advance payments are available to new claimants who need one within five working days, and on the same day to anyone in urgent need.

'The vast majority of claimants tell us they are comfortable managing their money, and budgeting support is also there for anyone who needs it.'

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