Use of food­banks DOU­BLES in 3 years

Middleton Guardian - - FRONT PAGE - EMMA CURRY

FOOD­BANK usage in Mid­dle­ton has more than dou­bled in three years, as peo­ple are strug­gling to cope with low wages, changes to ben­e­fits and the roll­out of Univer­sal Credit, it has been claimed.

The num­ber of food parcels given to fam­i­lies and in­di­vid­u­als at Mid­dle­ton Cen­tral Food­bank in­creased from 1,347 be­tween July 2015 and June 2016, to 2,760 from July 2017 to June 2018 – a jump of 104.9 per cent.

The top four rea­sons peo­ple cited for need­ing to use the food­bank, based in Mid­dle­ton Shop­ping Cen­tre, were low in­come (27.5pc), ben­e­fit de­lays (27pc), ben­e­fit changes (21pc) and debt (8pc).

Carl Roach, the Light­house Pro­ject’s de­vel­op­ment man­ager and man­ager of Mid­dle­ton Cen­tral Food­bank said de­mand is grow­ing year on year.

“Peo­ple seem to be strug­gling to make ends meet and are af­fected by changes and de­lays with their ben­e­fit pay­ments,” he added. “We are in an area where Univer­sal Credit is be­ing rolled out and be­tween the years 2016 and 2017 we saw a sig­nif­i­cant leap in food­bank usage. De­mand is still grow­ing year on year, but thank­fully not quite at the same rate as in 2017.

“Thank­fully the do­na­tions to the food­bank have also in­creased and, apart from the sum­mer of 2017 when we vir­tu­ally ran out, food do­na­tions have kept pace with de­mand.”

Staff at the food­bank are also work­ing with in­di­vid­u­als to im­prove their skills and knowl­edge and in­crease their chances of get­ting back into work.

“Where the gov­ern­ment saves a few quid by de­lay­ing a claimant’s pay­ment for a few weeks or im­pos­ing a sanc­tion, the slack is be­ing taken up by char­i­ties like our own – and prob­a­bly at much more cost than the amounts saved,” he added.

Liz McInnes, the MP for Mid­dle­ton and Hey­wood, said: “It is ab­so­lutely scan­dalous that in one of the world’s rich­est economies we have so many peo­ple and fam­i­lies – in­clud­ing many in work – who are forced to rely on food­banks to sur­vive.

“Through­out the last year, my of­fice has re­ceived com­plaints and pleas for sup­port from res­i­dents strug­gling to make ends meet due to prob­lems with Univer­sal Credit.

“Stag­nat­ing wages, un­re­li­able work and the in­creas­ing cost of liv­ing are also play­ing a part in forc­ing fam­i­lies to­wards food­banks.

“My thanks and admi- ra­tion go to all the staff and vol­un­teers at the Light­house Pro­ject and other food­banks both here lo­cally and across the coun­try, who give their time to help those who are strug­gling through no fault of their own.”

From July 2015 to June 2016, there were 810 vis­its by adults and 537 by chil­dren at the food­bank run by the Light­house Pro­ject.

The fol­low­ing year, from July 2016 to June 2017, the num­bers rose to 1,373 vis­its by adults and 676 by chil­dren – 2049 in to­tal, which is a 52.1pc in­crease on the pre­vi­ous year.

By the pe­riod from July 2017 to June 2018, usage was up to 1,721 vis­its from adults and 1,039 from chil­dren – 2,760 in to­tal, or a 34.6pc in­crease.

Carl Roach from the Light­house Pro­ject, who is also man­ager of Mid­dle­ton Cen­tral Food­bank, says de­mand is in­creas­ing year on year but do­na­tions are thank­fully keep­ing pace

From left: Food­bank vol­un­teers Mark Fraser, Eileen Sutch, Mar­garet Ratch­ford, Ian Jones and Jeremy Ratch­ford with some do­na­tions

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