FOODBANK use could rise sharply in Coventry as the government’s new benefit system hits vulnerable people hardest over the winter period, a centre manager has predicted.
Hugh McNeil who runs the Trussel Trust foodbank on Sparkbrook Street near the city centre says it has seen a huge increase in use over the last few years for various reasons.
He says the food bank has gone from giving out around 15,500 emergency supply packs in 2016/17, to around 20,000 in 2017/18.
Based on half-year figures, he predicts around 22,000 packs will have been distributed by the end of 2018/19 in April, representing an increase of around two fifths over three years.
With Universal Credit (UC) being rolled out in Coventry in July, he says he is only now starting to see the effects of the controversial new form of benefit payment, on top of a long squeeze on household budgets.
He said: “We saw a drop in use this time last year, before the busy winter months.
“But we have actually seen a rise this year after UC was introduced.
“We are seeing more of the same people using the service and returning – sometimes the same people are coming week after week.
“We are finding it is particularly those on UC. Some people have been left with nothing, especially after being made to wait a month for first payment.
“And those that are getting their payments find it doesn’t cover day-to-day living expenses.
“We are also seeing more and more people in work seeking our support.
“The increase in the cost of living is also leaving more people out of pocket.
“It is quite often single mothers or those with disabilities and mental health issues who are coming to us needing food.
“We want to provide the correct advice at the bank so they don’t have to keep coming back.”
The Trussel Trust says problems associated with UC have prompted the Coventry branch to partner up with Coventry Citizens Advice Bureau to provide a support scheme for those coming to the centre due to benefit complications and issues with applying.
The new scheme named Resilience aims to respond to the projected increase in footfall into the foodbanks due to the arrival of UC, the Trussel Trust says.
The Trussel Trust is one of the largest foodbank networks in the UK and it has expanded significantly in the last few years, providing an easier option for those who need support.
UC is intended as a simplified single payment which incorporates benefits such as housing benefit, child tax credit, income support, working tax credit, job seeker’s allowance and employment and support allowance.
The latest figures from the government’s Department for Work and Pensions show around 3,500 Coventry residents are in receipt of UC.
And over a third of these people are in some form of employment.
The total figure is expected to rise significantly with around 37,000 people expected to make the switch to the new service.
The government stands by the new payment system saying that thousands of recipients are going into employment and contributing to a jobs boom.