Great Yarmouth Food Bank sees massive increase in demand because of ongoing problems with Universal Credit
Archant Norfolk © 2014
A food bank is handing out ten times the number of food parcels to those in need in the space of a year.
The independently-run Great Yarmouth Food Bank has seen a big spike in those seeking help since the new Universal Credit benefits system was rolled out across the borough.
Last month over 1,000 units, or food parcels, were handed out. This is compared to just over 100 in the same month last year.
Liz Townson, a trustee at the food bank, said they were over stretched and in desperate need of food donations and volunteers.
She added: “We are having to buy food whereas normally we had enough from the community bringing it in.
“It has been a difficult time. The changes have cost us no end of trouble.”
She said the food parcels could get smaller as they may have to reassess how much food goes in to each parcel.
Yarmouth was chosen as a pilot area for the government’s new Universal Credit last spring and then later in Lowestoft.
During the roll out of Universal Credit in Great Yarmouth there have been issues that the claims process has caused long delays for some people, with a six to eight week being common.
Ms Townson added that problems with the roll out were exacerbated because Yarmouth has got “such a high level of deprivation.”
Universal Credit combines several other working-age benefits, including housing benefit and Job Seeker’s Allowance, with a monthly instead of fortnightly payment.
The housing element of Universal Credit is no longer paid directly to landlords anymore, with paying rent being the responsibility of claimants.
Some landlords have been forced to evict tenants who have not kept up with their rent and in the most extreme cases some people were made homeless.
The Great Yarmouth Food Bank has written to the Department for Work and Pensions to express their concerns.
Those accessing the food bank need to come via authorised agency referrals.
To qualify for help, families and individuals have to be referred to the food bank by a professional care organisation, like a GP surgery or social worker.
Ms Townson said ensured this ensured food went to the people who needed it.
What a food parcel contains
A crisis parcel from the food bank is designed to help with a short term crisis.
It normally contains snack, tins, plus toiletries if requested when available.
A parcel is issued when a referral is received from a supporting agency or when a service user presents at the Foodbank drop-in with a job centre clearance form.
Parcels will be issued for a period usually until benefits are restored. Depending on availability, parcels contain:
• Milk sachets
• Tea or coffee
• Baked beans
• Potato product/instant mash
• Meat product
• Fish product
• Dried pasta/rice
• Pasta sauce
• Sandwich filling