Demand for Hackney Foodbank could surge by up to 50 per cent over the next year, due in part to the recent rollout of Universal Credit.
Statistics announced by the Trussell Trust reveal that in areas that have had full Universal Credit for a year or more, foodbanks have seen a 52 per cent average increase in demand, compared to an increase of 13 per cent in areas without Universal Credit.
The timing couldn’t be worse for Hackney, which is still reeling from huge demand this summer. And as winter draws in and households face the extra cost of staying warm, pressure is mounting.
Melanie Rochford, of Hackney Foodbank, said: “Like many other foodbanks, we are worried about what could happen in our community. We believe that just sending letters to people telling them to reapply for benefits simply isn’t good enough, particularly for people with mental or physical health conditions. The Government needs to take responsibility for moving people over and ensuring there is no gap in payments.”
Universal Credit is a new single monthly payment which replaces jobseeker’s allowance, employment and support allowance, income support, child tax credit, working tax benefits and housing benefit. It’s been rolling out in Hackney since October. Recent news reports describe claimants going a minimum of 35 days without income while the changeover takes place – leaving many at risk of rent arrears and eviction, stress and debt. The Government has pledged to cut this down to three weeks.
The Government’s recent announcement of Universal Credit reforms wasn’t in time for many Hackney residents who have already made the switch and critics say most of the support won’t come into force until July 2020.
(Melanie Rochford and Will from Hackney Foodbank)
How you can help
The Local Buyers Club is responding to concerns by issuing an appeal for supplies for Hackney, Islington and Haringey Foodbanks.
They’ve helped set up numerous local donation points. Among the local venues you can donate are: Location Location estate agency and Askew Eyewear in Stoke Newington Church Street.
L’Epicerie 56 in Chatsworth Road.
The Deli Downstairs in Victoria Park Village.
Donations made at Bourne's Fishmongers in Highbury Barn will go to Islington Foodbank.
Donations made at Freeman's Butchers in Crouch End will go to Haringey Foodbank.
Foods in regularly in short supply include tinned meat, UHT milk, tinned fruit, curry paste, long-life fruit juice, tinned vegetables, tinned custard and rice pudding.
Nationwide those currently receiving benefits will be given a month’s notice to apply for Universal Credit or risk losing their benefits. The new reform extends this to three months. Critics of the scheme fear vulnerable claimants struggle to navigate the notoriously complex application process in time and they say claimants faced with a wait of five weeks or longer for a first payment could be plunged deeper into debt, increasing demand for food banks.
Such is the demand locally that a summer lunch project run in Hoxton by Hackney Foodbank served hundreds of cooked meals to many local families to try to ease the burden for families struggling for six weeks without free school meals. They’re planning a similar project over the Christmas holidays.
More info on food donations here.
Or donate money direct to the Hackney Foodbank here.
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