ANOTHER huge rise in demand for emergency food supplies in Rugby has been blamed on government benefit reforms by volunteers at the town’s Foodbank.
The Foodbank says demand has rocketed by more than 60 per cent this year – and cites the rollout of Universal Credit as a major factor.
More than 4,000 emergency food parcels were distributed in 2016 – 30 per cent more than the previous year – with a third going to children.
But a further increase was recorded in the last six months, meaning foodbank use has increased by 61 per cent over the last 12 months.
Issues with benefits were the primary reason for getting help in 42 per cent of all cases in the last year, up from 36 per cent.
Foodbank manager Diana Mansell said: “It is deeply concerning we are still seeing an increase in the number of three-day emergency food supplies provided to local people in crisis in Rugby over the last year. The trend over the last six months has been particularly concerning – a 61 per cent increase compared to that of the previous financial year is very worrying.
“Anybody could find themselves in need of the foodbank. Every week people are referred to us after being hit by something unavoidable – such as illness, a long delay in universal benefit claims or an unexpected bill – meaning food is simply unaffordable.”
Foodbanks in other areas where Universal Credit has been rolled out have also seen a rise in people needing their services – which are accessed by a voucher given by a professional such as a doctor or social worker.
Rugby was chosen as one of a handful of towns to test the Conservative party’s flagship welfare reform when it was introduced by the coalition government in 2013.
Universal Credit unites six different benefits and tax credits into a single monthly payment. Rugby has been putting all new benefits claimants on universal credit since May last year.
There is a six week waiting period for the first payment, which foodbank charity The Trussell Trust says can lead to debt, mental health problems and rent arrears. It also claims the effects can last after people receive their money as bills and debts pile up.
But foodbank volunteers say they will continue to provide their service, which last year saw 50 tonnes of food donated and more than 60 people volunteer regularly.
Ms Mansell added: “It really is only with the community’s support that we’re able to provide vital emergency help when it matters most, and we hope that one day there will be no need for us in Rugby.
“But until that day comes, we will continue to offer the best possible service to help local people facing a crisis. Thank you so much to everyone in Rugby who already donates time, food and money to help local people. If you’re not already involved, we’d love to hear from you.”
Visit www.rugby.foodbank.org.uk to find out more.