The shock­ing rise in

Nuneaton Telegraph - - FRONT PAGE -

MORE and more peo­ple in Coven­try – in­clud­ing young chil­dren – ap­pear to be go­ing hun­gry as the city’s food­bank re­veals a stag­ger­ing in­crease in peo­ple need­ing emer­gency food sup­plies.

Coven­try Food­bank , one of the busiest in the wider Trus­sell Trust net­work of food­banks, handed out 20,089 emer­gency food pack­ages to peo­ple in Coven­try last year – a mas­sive jump of 30 per cent from the pre­vi­ous year.

Shock­ingly, that means more than 55 pack­ages are handed out on av­er­age ev­ery day to those strug­gling to feed them­selves.

Even more wor­ry­ingly, 8,000 of those three-day emer­gency food sup­plies went to chil­dren who would have oth­er­wise gone hun­gry.

The 20,000-plus pack­ages were handed out to peo­ple in cri­sis be­tween April 1, 2017 and March 31, 2018 thanks to do­na­tions from the gen­er­ous of peo­ple of Coven­try.

A mas­sive 141 tonnes of food – al­most the weight of two Boe­ing 737-800 air­planes – was donated in that pe­riod.

The fi­nan­cial year be­fore, 15,500 pack­ages were dis­trib­uted to peo­ple across the city.

To put the shock­ing rise into context, the in­crease in food pack­ages handed out across the UK is 13 per cent.

Coven­try Food­bank says the lo­cal in­crease is due to peo­ple strug­gling with ben­e­fit payments and fail­ing to find se­cure work.

It also high­lighted a gen­eral squeeze in liv­ing stan­dards in the city.

But staff at the food­bank are also con­cerned the huge jump will not be the end of the rise in de­mand for emer­gency food in Coven­try.

They say they are ex­pect­ing “an­other sig­nif­i­cant in­crease” when Univer­sal Credit – a new ben­e­fit sys­tem which re­places a range of ex­ist­ing ben­e­fits, in­clud­ing hous­ing ben­e­fit – is fully rolled out in the city this July.

Crit­ics say it has driven peo­ple into debt, partly be­cause they have to wait six weeks for their first pay­ment, and other food­banks where the new ben­e­fit has been fully in­tro­duced have been hit hard.

Emma Re­vie, chief ex­ec­u­tive of the Trus­sell Trust, said: “Univer­sal Credit is the fu­ture of our ben­e­fits sys­tem.

“It’s vi­tal we get it right, and en­sure lev­els of pay­ment keep pace with the ris­ing cost of essentials, par­tic­u­larly for groups of peo­ple we know are al­ready more likely to need a food­bank – dis­abled peo­ple, peo­ple deal­ing with an ill­ness, fam­i­lies with chil­dren and sin­gle par­ents.”

On top of call­ing for ben­e­fits to be up­rated in line with in­fla­tion to en­sure payments keep pace with the cost of liv­ing, the Trus­sell Trust is also ask­ing for an ur­gent in­quiry into poor ad­min­is­tra­tion within Univer­sal Credit, so er­rors such as in­cor­rect payments along with poor com­mu­ni­ca­tion is­sues can be tack­led. Coven­try Food­bank has been pro­vid­ing three days of emer­gency food and sup­port to lo­cal peo­ple since 2011.

The or­gan­i­sa­tion op­er­ates at 16 lo­ca­tions around the city as well as their main dis­tri­bu­tion hub on Progress Way in Bin­ley . Hugh McNeill, man­ager of Coven­try Food­bank, said: “We don’t want to be here for­ever. No one in Coven­try should need a food­bank’s help and we want to see an end to lo­cal peo­ple need­ing emer­gency food at all.

“It doesn’t have to be this way – with a ben­e­fits sys­tem that catches peo­ple be­fore they fall into cri­sis, and se­cure work that pro­vides peo­ple with enough money to cover the cost of essentials, this is pos­si­ble.

“But un­til that time, we’ll con­tinue to pro­vide vi­tal sup­port when it mat­ters most – we’re ded­i­cated to en­sur­ing that peo­ple in our com­mu­nity with no money for food are able to ac­cess emer­gency sup­port, and that has only been pos­si­ble in the last year be­cause of the in­cred­i­ble gen­eros­ity shown by

No one in Coven­try should need a food­bank’s help and we want to see an end to lo­cal peo­ple need­ing emer­gency food at all.

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