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Last week MPs Frank Field and Heidi Allen, along with a camera crew from Chanel 4 News, came to our Waterloo Foodbank and chatted with Rebekah Gibson our Advice Centre Manager who also looks after the food bank.
Rebekah was joined by Waterloo Hub Leader Nathan Jones and Chris Price and Sharon Hunt our friends from the Southbank Foodbank run by PECAN.
Frank Field and Heidi Allen came to find out about the work of our food bank to help inform a new report about the root causes of hunger in local communities: ‘Feeding Britain’.
The conversation covered a variety of areas but in particular focused on the impact of Universal Credit:
· In the past 12 months we’ve seen usage of the foodbank increase by 70 percent
· Universal Credit, has had a significant impact on the work of our foodbanks, largely because of the minimum five week delay before claimants receive any money which pushes many individuals into debt or financial difficulty
· Increasingly we are finding that people who come to the food bank need support in other areas such as debt advice or similar support services
· Food banks are increasingly seeing users who are actually in work but still can’t afford the basics. The increase in casual work or unstable employment as part of the ‘gig’ economy is believed to be a significant contributor to food bank usage.
Increasingly, food banks are rarely just about food. Acting as a community safety net, most food banks also act as a signposting service to housing, debt-advice and other social services. As one of the visitors put it “you’re acting as a mutual welfare state”. This has been mirrored by a worrying increase in food bank users who suffer from mental health issues and have fallen through the gaps in standard welfare provision.
Despite the sometimes shocking and disheartening statistics the afternoon was a positive one. It was great having Frank Field and Heidi Allen listening about and learning from our work.
Don’t forget – if you want to contribute to the work we do through our debt-advice centres, food banks and community Hubs across the UK you can donate here.