Ipswich: Rising bills and benefit changes are blamed for rise in distribution of food parcels

Maureen Reynel

Maureen Reynel - Credit: Archant

Charities are reporting a major rise in the number of food parcels being distributed across Ipswich, and fear the situation could get even worse in the coming months.

Families in Need (FIND) distributed 542 parcels to people in 2011 but this rose to 1,988 last year – an increase of nearly 267%.

By the end of June this year, the organisation had already handed out 1,100 parcels.

Both the rising cost of living and major changes to the benefits system have been blamed for the surge in families and individuals in the town seeking emergency support.

Maureen Reynel, director of FIND, believes the scrapping of crisis loans has also had an impact on the figures.

She said: “I think there are a lot of people living from one month to the next, and were surviving on a crisis loan, but now there are no crisis loans so there is no cushion there.

“A lot of it is about re-educating people because they have been depending on crisis loans and benefits for a big chunk of their lives and to have it all shattered, they are going to need six to nine months education to get to a place where they can help themselves.

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“It is a big learning curve and we just have to try and support those people who are going through it and hopefully they come out the other end.”

Bosses at children and young people’s charity, Ormiston Children and Families Trust, have also reported an increase in the number of food parcels they hand out – rising 25% in 2012 compared to the previous year.

The charity primarily works with families to help them budget and manage their money, but they have handed out a number of fuel vouchers to families, which were at risk of not having any hot water or heat.

A spokeswoman said: “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.

“These figures obviously highlight a problem and we are concerned that this might continue in the months ahead.”

The figures have followed new research which has shown more than one in 10 people in the East of England region had either skipped meals, gone without food to feed their families or relied on family and friends for food.

The research, carried out by Tesco, foodbank charity the Trussel Trust and Fareshare, a food redistribution charity, also found 21% of parents in the UK struggle to feed their children.