Food banks: Flawed benefits system failing Hackney’s most vulnerable
(The team at Hackney Foodbank)
Residents with severe mental health problems are being thrown on the scrapheap and left to a downward spiral of poverty under the new Universal Credit system.
That’s the verdict of the team at Hackney Foodbank who say poverty is the worst they’ve ever known it – they say most of the people going hungry and struggling to pay rent are those with conditions like depression, anxiety, agoraphobia and post-traumatic stress disorder.
As the charity gears up for a busy summer holidays, they’re already reeling from a 44% increase in referrals. At the end of every week the shelves are almost empty and they’re spending around £1,000 per week on food shops. Hackney Foodbank distributes over two tonnes of food per week to people in need. The school holidays are the most pressured time as parents, who usually depend on free school meals, struggle to meet the cost of feeding their children lunch.
Melanie Rochford, Business and Development Director at Hackney Foodbank, said: “Mental health is debilitating but it’s unseen. We’re in a situation now locally where residents receiving Disability Living Allowance are being forced to undergo reassessment. They’re being assessed by unqualified, non-medical people who in many cases disagree with doctors and deem them fit to work."
She added: “People with mental health problems are being thrown on the scrapheap and into high stress situations. The impact for many is that they spiral into deeper depression and anxiety, increasing the risk of a psychotic episode. Self-harm and suicide rates are up. People are at the end of their tether. We see them every week – they’re desperate and they say things like: ‘I’m just waiting for my life to end.’
Single mums, children and young single men are the most regular groups depending on the foodbank for help. According to recent research by Howsy, Hackney residents pay an average of 83% of their salary on rent – that’s a higher proportion than any other London borough.
Melanie puts local poverty down to a combination of forces: high rents, a lack of social housing, low wages and a lack of employers paying living wage and Universal Credit rollout which she says leaves many without any benefits for up to eight or nine weeks.
After paying bills, rent and debts, some residents are left with as little as £50 per month to live on.
The Local Buyers Club has been supporting local food banks for the past two years, setting up new donation points and fundraising.
How you can help.
Locals can donate food at:
Location Location and Askew Eyewear on Stoke Newington Church Street,
The Deli Downstairs in Victoria Park Village
L’Epicerie 56 on Chatsworth Road
Bournes Fishmonger, Highbury Barn - collection for Islington Foodbank
Freemans butchers - Crouch End - collection for Haringey Foodbank
Items regularly in short supply include: tinned fruit, tinned meat, tinned fish, UHT milk, long life fruit juice, curry sauce, tinned pasta, savoury biscuits· mashed potato, toilet rolls and soap.
Other donation points in Hackney can be found by clicking here
To make a financial contribution visit: https://hackneyfoodbank.churchsuite.co.uk/donate/fund/2
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