More cash-strapped fam­i­lies re­sort­ing to food banks

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - What’s On - By Ge­off Bew

More than 17,000 peo­ple in Kent have used emer­gency sup­plies from a food bank in the last 11 months.

Low in­comes, changes to ben­e­fits, debt and home­less­ness are some of the rea­sons why, ac­cord­ing to anti-poverty char­ity The Trus­sell Trust.

Its lat­est fig­ures show 17,631 peo­ple in the county turned to a food bank be­tween April 2016 and March this year and 6,932 of those helped were chil­dren.

Med­way had the high­est num­ber of peo­ple seek­ing three­day emer­gency food parcels (6,064), fol­lowed by Grave­sham (3,304) and Dover (1,879).

The Deal area was not far be­hind (1,866), fol­lowed by Faver­sham (1,417), Shep­way (1,344) and Sit­ting­bourne (1,042).

The low­est num­ber of peo­ple us­ing food banks was in the Swan­ley dis­trict (715).

The 17,631 to­tal is a rise of 11% on the pe­riod be­tween April 2015 and March 2016 when 15,710 peo­ple needed help, in­clud­ing 6,233 chil­dren.

The fig­ures come just days af­ter char­ity warned food banks were be­ing put un­der in­tense strain af­ter re­cent dis­abil­ity ben­e­fit cuts led to a surge in users.

The Trus­sell Trust runs eight food banks across Kent.

Its food bank net­work di­rec­tor Adrian Cur­tis said: “The main rea­son for peo­ple be­ing re­ferred to food banks for emer­gency food was prob­lems with their ben­e­fits pay­ments – that could be a de­lay or a sud­den change to the level of ben­e­fit pay­ment – or it could also be low in­come.

“It does go to show that house­hold bud­gets are very very tight and it only takes some­thing to go wrong such as an un­ex­pected bill and peo­ple lack the sav­ings to be able to pay that bill and put food on the ta­ble.”

The char­ity’s new re­port, Early Warn­ings: Uni­ver­sal Credit and Food­banks, high­lights that the high­est de­mand for emer­gency food sup­plies is in ar­eas where the new uni­ver­sal credit sys­tem for ad­min­is­ter­ing ben­e­fits has been in­tro­duced. It wants the gov­ern­ment to re­duce the six-week de­lay that peo­ple of­ten ex­pe­ri­ence be­fore they re­ceive their first pay­ment.

Mr Cur­tis added: “Our food banks tell us clients of­ten go into debt in or­der to get through that cri­sis which can have a much longer-last­ing ef­fect on a fam­ily’s fi­nances be­yond that sixweek wait.”

To find your near­est food bank visit www.trussell­trust. org/get-help/find-a-food­bank/

Food banks have seen a surge in de­mand af­ter ben­e­fit cuts

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