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Social Justice

People from all walks of life are forced to turn to foodbanks, say volunteers

A Big Issue investigation showed foodbanks are busier than ever as people are plunged into poverty by debt, illness and Universal Credit

A volunteer who works at a Newcastle foodbank has told The Big Issue of the huge cross-section of society which is using the service, after figures showed more people than ever are seeking emergency supplies.

Suzanne Hodson helps out at the Elim Church foodbank in the city, and she says that their service is dealing with a large variety of people from across the local community.

She said: “We have such a wide range of people. These include an elderly asylum seeker from Afghanistan with her daughter who spoke for her, as the benefits that they are receiving is not enough to cover rent and food. We also helped a man who was hospitalised with a heart attack and whose Universal Credit was stopped. Now out of hospital, he is having to wait for his UC to be reinstated.

“There was also a single parent with a four-year-old child who, due to previous debt, gets £190 per week taken from their benefits to cover the debt, not allowing them any money for food.”

Over 1.3 million emergency food supplies were handed out by the Trussell Trust last year. Figures from the charity also show that foodbanks are busier than ever, and this is the most critical time of year. The network provided 159,388 three-day emergency food supplies during December 2017, of which 65,622 went to children. That was nearly double the monthly average for the 2017-18 financial year.

The charity points to Universal Credit in driving the rise in foodbank use, after reporting a 13 per cent increase in the number of packages given out last year. More and more people are being caught out by the delays built into the system and have nowhere else to turn. Renfrewshire Council has even announced £30,000 extra in ‘food bank funds’ to cope with the demand.

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You can read the full investigation into who uses foodbanks and why in this week’s Big Issue, on sale now.

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