Food banks brace for surge in demand over winter

More people are relying on foobanks than ever before. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Foodbanks are preparing for a busy few months. - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2020

Foodbanks across Norfolk are bracing for a surge in demand over winter.

Trevor Saunders, from Mandalay Wellbeing CIC in Great Yarmouth, said the £20-a-week cut to Universal Credit has led to some of his service users becoming increasingly worried.

"I don't think we've seen the start of it," Mr Saunders said. "But already, the rise in concern is noticeable and significant.

"Since the news of the Universal Credit deduction, we've definitely seen people more desperate and upset.

"I had someone in here yesterday who was in tears - he has debt problems as well as mental health problems."

Trevor Saunders and Lisa Agogue, who volunteer at Mandalay Wellbeing CIC down Victoria Arcade.

Trevor Saunders and Lisa Agogue, who volunteer at Mandalay Wellbeing CIC down Victoria Arcade. - Credit: James Weeds


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Mr Saunders, 55, shared that he recently found out his electricity bill is about to rise by 33pc.

"And we've got all the general overheads," said Mr Saunders. 

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"It's bad now and it is going to get worse than it was during the pandemic."

As well as a week's supply of food for a line of more than 100 people, the service also provides toiletries, nappies and sanitary products.

"It could be you, it could be me," Mr Saunders said. "We're all just one step away."

Norwich foodbank hands out 800 parcels a month, which is fewer than the 1,200 it gave out at the height of the pandemic.

But despite the demand going back to pre-lockdown levels, Norwich foodbank project manager Hannah Worsley said people who receive parcels were already worried about the loss of the £20 Universal Credit top up, a rise in National Insurance contributions and soaring energy and food bills.

Project manager Hannah Worsley . PHOTO: Nick Butcher

Project manager Hannah Worsley . PHOTO: Nick Butcher - Credit: Nick Butcher

Mrs Worsley, who helps co-ordinate 100 volunteers across seven distribution sites and a main warehouse, said: "We do expect demand to go up in November, December and January.

"Costs of living have gone up and people have not got enough money to pay the bills. Sometimes the food parcels are being given out as a one-off because people cannot make ends meet. 

"But we are seeing more longer-term cases rather than quick fixes. We are concerned."

She added that the Norwich foodbank, which is part of the Trussell Trust, helped a wide range of people, including those in work, and many who it helped were facing delays in benefit payments.

The loss of the £20 Universal Credit payment was also a blow to many as that amounted to a cut for people who only started receiving it in the pandemic.

Mrs Worsley said the fuel crisis has also stopped people from getting to distribution centres for emergency parcels which are given out through a referral basis.

The King's Lynn Foodbank - Supplies on the shelves Picture: Matthew Usher.

Supplies at a foodbank. - Credit: Matthew Usher

OUR CAMPAIGN

Thousands across the region could face a struggle to pay their bills, fuel their homes and even feed their families this winter.

That is the stark prediction amid fears a perfect storm of financial pressures will push many into hardship over the forthcoming months.

Therefore, this newspaper is launching a new hard-hitting campaign to recognise the financial challenges some of our readers face, raise awareness and offer support during the cold winter months.

As part of our campaign, 'There With You This Winter', we hope to stand by our communities, just as we did with a series of campaigns during the coronavirus pandemic.

Boxes of food on shelving ready to be picked for distribution at the Bromley Borough Foodbank in Orp

Foodbank demand rose over the pandemic. - Credit: PA

There are plenty of local organisations and support groups offering advice. We will be profiling these throughout the campaign. 

Wider financial support is still available for those who need assistance, through the Norfolk Assistance Scheme - please visit www.norfolk.gov.uk/NAS or call 0344 8008020.

Suffolk Advice and Support Service (SASS) is a free phoneline and is available to support vulnerable people in our communities. The telephone number is freephone 0800 068 3131 and will be staffed from 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday.

Here are some websites worth checking out: 

www.turn2us.org.uk 

www.moneysupermarket.com/gas-and-electricity/fuel-poverty 

www.moneysavingexpert.com/energy/

www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/bills/

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