Demand for emergency food parcels is on the rise as figures revealed thousands of people living on the breadline asked a Doncaster foodbank for help last year.
Doncaster Foodbank in Thorne Road provided 5142 three day emergency food parcels to people in 2018/19. Perhaps most alarmingly about a third of these – 1725 – went to children.
This represented a 9.5 per cent increase on demand when compared to the figures from the year before.
The foodbank is run by the Trussell Trust charity – which has also released wider figures showing the regional and national picture.
The trust said 35, 750 three-day emergency food parcels were distributed from their foodbanks across the Sheffield City Region – which includes all of South Yorkshire, plus parts of Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire – in 2018/19. The data showed 12,155 packages – about a third – were handed out to children.
The charity, which operates seven foodbanks across South Yorkshire, claimed demand for food parcels has risen nationally since the Government rolled out the Universal Credit benefits system.
The charity said some people are having to wait up to five weeks for a first payment, pushing them into financial difficulty and the use of foodbanks. The Department for Work and Pensions, however, disputed this claim.
Mark Snelson, a trustee of Doncaster Foodbank, said: “No one in Doncaster should need a foodbank’s help and we want to see an end to local people needing emergency food at all.
“The charity believes the local increase is due to people struggling with the continued issues with benefit payments; issues with Universal Credit such as the five-week wait; and low incomes where those referred were unable to meet the cost of living, the majority as a result of inadequate benefits income.”
The Sheffield City Region figures showed a significant rise when compared to the year before in which 30, 950 parcels were handed out, including 10, 929 to children.
Nationally, the trust handed out almost 1.6 million foodbank parcels, including more than half a million to children.
The trust said this represents an 18.8 per cent increase on 2017/18 and a 73.4 per cent rise in the last five years.
They added almost half of foodbank referrals made due to a delay in benefits being paid nationally were linked to Universal Credit.
Emma Revie, chief executive of the Trussell Trust, said: “Universal Credit should be part of the solution but currently the five week wait is leaving many without enough money to cover the basics.
“As a priority, we’re urging the Government to end the wait for Universal Credit to ease the pressure on thousands of households.”
The Government started phasing in Universal Credit in 2013 as a way of simplifying the system by rolling several different benefits into a single monthly payment.
In a statement, the Department for Work and Pensions said it is “not true” people need to wait five weeks for their first payment as it is available to claimants on “day one.”
The statement added: “It also cannot be claimed that Universal Credit is driving the overall use of foodbanks or that benefit changes and delays are driving growth.
“The Trust’s own analysis shows a substantial fall in the share of parcels being issued due to benefit payment delays. The best route out of poverty is to help people into sustainable employment which, with record employment, we are doing.
“For those who need a safety net we have invested £10 billion into Universal Credit since 2016 alone, confirmed the benefits freeze will end next year and made changes to make Universal Credit fairer for women and families.”