Poverty so bad Ipswich still likely to need foodbank for 20 YEARS, warns founder
PUBLISHED: 12:38 06 February 2020 | UPDATED: 12:38 06 February 2020
Escalating numbers of poverty-stricken people in Ipswich mean the town is likely to still need a foodbank for another 20 years, a charity founder has warned.
Maureen Reynel set up Families In Need (FIND) in Ipswich 20 years ago to provide food and household equipment to people struggling to make ends meet.
Since then the charity's workload has steadily grown as ever-increasing numbers ask for help, so much so that FIND outgrew its premises and struggled to cope with demand.
This week it officially unveiled new and larger premises in Braziers Wood Road, adhacent to Gainsborough Sports Centre, finally allowing it to store more goods and make use of more volunteers.
At an official opening event attended by dozens of supporters, Mrs Reynel thanked generous donors who helped to raise thousands of pounds to make the new base a reality through the FIND 50 Appeal, which encouraged schools, companies and other organisations to each raise £2,000.
"People are quite amazed by the facility and how it is organised," she said as Ipswich deputy mayor Jane Riley unveiled the new venue, which will cost a total of £360,000.
Yet while she acknowledged the immense fundraising effort showed huge compassion for Ipswich's poor, she still fears the need for FIND is only going to grow.
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Mrs Reynel said: "We haven't had a tough winter, but that hasn't stopped the referrals coming in.
"January is usually quite a quiet time for me, but there has been no lull - just a continuation of last year.
"The people we have helped with food and household items is a huge number.
"More referrals are coming in from hostels - there is just no let up."
Mrs Reynel believes a major reason for the most recent rises in demand is the new Universal Credit (UC) benefit system.
First brought in by the coalition government, it is designed to simplfy multiple benefits into a single payment.
Its defenders argue it has made a previously complicated system better and easier to understand for claimants.
However detractors say long waiting times for initial payments to be processed, as well as harsh penalties for those who do not attend JobCentre meetings, has left many to struggle for weeks with no money at all.
Mrs Reynel believes: "It's going to be another couple of years before they've sorted out how UC works."
Asked if she agreed with one person's comment at Wednesday's official opening that the foodbank would still be needed in 20 years, she said: "I think we still will be around.
"I started FIND 29 years ago and I'm still here. It is not going to go away, not for a long time yet."