Charity offers young people in urgent need advice on accessing food

Yolly Southgate, head of advice services at MAP.

Yolly Southgate, head of advice services at MAP. - Credit: Norfolk Community Advice Network

A Norfolk charity has offered its advice on how young people in need can urgently access food as part of the EDP's There With You this Winter campaign. 

Norfolk Community Advice Network is sharing advice tips with readers and asked Yolly Southgate, head of advice services at Mancroft Advice Project (MAP), for her top tips.

MAP is a charity that provides free specialist advice, counselling, crisis support and youth work services to Norfolk’s young people under 26 years of age.

She said: “In MAP’s top three frequently asked questions from young people is how they can urgently access food when they have no funds and cannot rely on support from their family.”

What’s different about young people when it comes to needing urgent help accessing food?

“The main thing is that young people aren’t as used to dealing with any changes in circumstances.

"If they’ve been kicked out of home or had to leave suddenly, they might still be in shock and are now facing homelessness too.

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"They are having to adapt to this change and to things which might all have been done by their parents or carer before.”

So a “no money/no food” crisis might escalate?

“Yes, it’s quite likely the young person hasn’t thought to do anything beyond 'survive' day-to-day, as they just don’t have that life experience.

"Having to ask to go back to stay at someone else’s home to 'sofa surf' is a big risk too.

"If they can at least contribute some food of their own, that can be quite helpful in bargaining for a longer stay on that person’s sofa.

"The other obstacles are financial.

"Young people get less money in benefits (single under 25’s get just £257.33 per month if they are claiming Universal Credit), and a lower minimum wage if they are working (currently under 18’s earn just £4.62 per hour).

"They are also more likely to be in private rented accommodation than in social housing, and what that all adds up to is less income and more outgoings.

"They are likely to very little, if any, money left over to buy food and to be able to eat a healthy diet.

Volunteers arranging stock at the Mid-Norfolk Food Bank storage centre in Toftwood. 

Stock image of a food bank. - Credit: Noah Vickers

"And too often, because of the government’s most recent cut in Universal Credit when lockdown was lifted, young people are again facing 'heating or eating' decisions this winter.

"Compounded by the fuel bills being high right now, there is no safety net for so many young people. It can be a vicious circle.”

Who might qualify for food help from MAP?

“We are here to help any young person to explore all the root causes of not having enough food, because that is often a symptom of a deeper series of problems.

"It might mean we help them to maximise income or to look at all outgoings and make sure they aren’t paying more than they should be.

"Sometimes offering immediate food help is important too, so we can discuss all options with them, including access to food bank vouchers.”

How do young people get this kind of free advice from MAP?

“Young people can call the MAP Advice Line free of charge on 0800 0744 454 or email us at advice@map.uk.net .”

What else can MAP offer that might be useful for young people?

“Mediation is available, so we can help the young person to explore all the issues and, if they wish, support to begin repairing their relationship.

"Sometimes young people do need to leave home.

"In those situations, MAP offers housing advice to explore their options for hostels or other accommodation, to apply for benefits and we even have specialist debt advisors. It’s all free support and quality assured advice.

"Longer term we run education and training programmes that help young people to prepare well for an independent life where they can make ends meet.

"Meanwhile, MAP’s mental health and counselling services can help young people to manage while they are adjusting to all these changes.”

For more information visit www.map.uk.net or contact MAP via 0800 075 4454 or email info@map.uk.net

The advice line is open 10.30am to 5.30pm Monday to Friday.

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