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Children turn to emergency handouts as foodbank demand soars

PUBLISHED: 05:00 06 November 2018 | UPDATED: 15:46 13 November 2018

More and more children are relying on emergency food handouts, according to the Trussell Trust Picture: NIALL CARSON/PRESS ASSOCIATION

More and more children are relying on emergency food handouts, according to the Trussell Trust Picture: NIALL CARSON/PRESS ASSOCIATION

Thousands of children in Suffolk and Essex are relying on emergency handouts from foodbanks, it can be revealed.

Universal credit explained Graphic: ARCHANTUniversal credit explained Graphic: ARCHANT

Thousands of children in Suffolk and Essex are relying on emergency handouts from foodbanks, it can be revealed.

More than 1,500 youngsters turned to emergency food handouts in Suffolk from April 1 to September 30, up from 1,004 in the same period last year.

And the figure was even higher in Essex, with 6,338 children receiving three-day emergency food supplies at Trussell Trust foodbanks, up from 5,514.

The hard-hitting data, released by the organisation today, has seen volunteers warn of an impending “debt crisis” which could plunge even more families into poverty.

Problems with Universal Credit are being blamed for driving such an increase in foodbank use.

“It is unprecedented and the situation only seems to be getting worse,” warned Maureen Reynel, owner of the independent Ipswich foodbank FIND. “For a lot of families, it’s the impossible choice of whether to eat or heat their homes. Foodbanks are their lifeline.

Foodbanks have warned of rising demand Picture: JONATHAN BRADY/PA WIREFoodbanks have warned of rising demand Picture: JONATHAN BRADY/PA WIRE

“We’ve got a debt crisis and it’s only going to affect more as the year goes on.”

More than 3,800 emergency handouts – up 39% from 2,736 between April 1 and September 30 last year – were given out at the Trussell Trust’s Suffolk foodbanks at Waveney, Eye and Haverhill.

Meanwhile, 16,642 parcels put food on the table for Essex families in Colchester, Clacton, Braintree and beyond – a rise of 24% on 2017 from 13,434.

At Mrs Reynel’s Ipswich foodbank, 3,500 emergency handouts have been distributed so far this year.

A further 1,000 are being prepared for the Christmas rush.

Just last month, readers revealed they were struggling to feed their families on Universal Credit.

Stocks at Stowmarket and area foodbank hit a critical low earlier this year

One admitted: “It’s leading me to get seriously behind with bills, and feed my daughter not myself.”

Calls are being made to scrap the five-week wait for payments, and despite promises made in last week’s Budget, those battling the consequences on the frontline want immediate action.

Stowmarket and area foodbank manager Mike Smith warned if demand keeps increasing at the current rate, foodbanks will need to double in size just to cope.

“From August to September we saw a 65% increase in demand, which is unheard of,” he added.

“Something must be done or more will suffer.”

Michael Beckett, manager of Colchester Foodbank which handed out 3,057 parcels in just six months, said he wants to see an end to people needing emergency food.

Universal Credit is being rolled out by the Department for Work and Pensions Picture: KIRSTY O'CONNOR/PA WIREUniversal Credit is being rolled out by the Department for Work and Pensions Picture: KIRSTY O'CONNOR/PA WIRE

“It’s a real concern that in only six months we’ve provided emergency supplies to fed 3,057 local people,” he said.

“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 East Anglia is being forced to turn to our foodbank.

He added: “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.”

Emma Revie, Trussell Trust chief executive, also wants urgent changes. She added: “Foodbanks cannot continue to pick up the pieces – we have to make sure our benefits system can protect people from hunger.

Maureen Reynel at FIND’s Ipswich foodbank. Picture: JAMES FLETCHERMaureen Reynel at FIND’s Ipswich foodbank. Picture: JAMES FLETCHER

“[It] is supposed to anchor any of us from being swept into poverty, but if Universal Credit is to do that, we need to see urgent changes.”

Government chiefs, who recently announced they will be boosting the amount people earn on Universal Credit by £1,000, responded by outlining improvements made to the new system.

“Universal Credit replaces an out-of-date, complex benefits system with cliff edges that disincentivised work and often trapped people in unemployment,” said a Department for Work and Pensions spokesman.

“We have just announced that we will be increasing the amount people can earn on Universal Credit by £1,000 before their payment begins to be reduced, to ensure work always pays, and introduced £1billion to help people moving over from the old benefits system.

“This is on top of the improvements we have already made – advances have increased to 100%, the seven-day waiting period has been removed and we are paying housing benefit for an additional two weeks when people move onto Universal Credit.

They added: “The reasons why people use food banks are complex, so it’s wrong to link a rise to any one cause.”

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