More and more working families in Ipswich are being plunged into financial hardship – with many struggling to pay for food and household bills.

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Vicki Harfield

Vicki Harfield is out of work – and she doesn’t know what the future is going to bring.

“We always hope that we’ll get back into work soon and that it will happen but it never does,” she said.

Vicki and her partner haven’t worked for several years, despite their efforts to find employment. They live on benefits and handouts.

Mum-of-two Vicki said: “I’m 30 and my partner is 28. I’ve been unemployed for years and my partner has been out of work for about three years. He always worked from when he left school but we moved here and he hasn’t been able to find work.”

Vicki and her partner and their two children Kayleigh, two, and Amy, 13 weeks, live in a council owned house in Lindbergh Road.

“It does annoy me that some people don’t want to go to work – it is not easy living like this. We never go out”

The family have been called benefit scroungers and Vicki said she is aware of how people living on benefits are portrayed.

She said: “For some people it is a choice to be on benefits but it isn’t a choice for everyone. It isn’t a choice for us.”

Suffolk charity the Ormiston Children and Families Trust says it has seen a 50% increase in the numbers of people seeking help for economic problems in the last 12 months.

During the same period, the charity has also witnessed a sharp rise in the number of food parcels handed to families in crisis.

Meanwhile, Ipswich and District Citizens Advice Bureau says there has been a ten-fold increase in the number of people asking for debt advice having taken out payday loans.

Chris Lee, programme development manager for the trust, said: “These figures obviously highlight a problem and we are concerned that this might continue in the months ahead.

“Between December 2012 and January 2013 we’ve handed out 25% more food parcels to families in Ipswich than we did in December 2011 and January 2012.

“We’re also seeing a huge increase in the number of families talking to us about their financial difficulties.

“Across Suffolk at least 50% of the people who use our children’s centre and prison visiting services are commenting on how the increase in prices of fuel, food, travel and utilities are affecting them.

“And it’s not just families on benefits who are struggling – working families are talking to us about these issues and receiving our food parcels too.”

Food parcels contain staple foods like pasta, rice and soup, Mr Lee said.

“We give food parcels to the families who we think will appreciate a bit of extra help. It means that we are able to give families items to put in their kitchen cupboards that otherwise they might not have had that week.

“And it’s this type of long lasting food that can really make the difference at the end of the week or the end of the month when families are waiting for payday.”

Last month, The Star reported how food price hikes were taking their toll on poorer families in Suffolk, with more and more having to rely on charity donations.

Families in Need handed out nearly double the number of emergency food parcels in 2011 compared to the previous year.

To find out more about Ormiston visit www.ormiston.org or call 01473 724517.

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