A Sheffield MP says it is 'sickening' that thousands of people are struggling to feed themselves after the scale of foodbank use in the region was laid bare in stark figures today.
The Trussell 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.
Perhaps most alarmingly, the data showed 12,155 packages – about a third – were handed out to children.
This represented a significant rise when compared to the year before in which 30, 950 parcels were handed out, including 10, 929 to children.
The trust, which operates seven foodbanks across South Yorkshire, said there has been an increase in demand nationally for food parcels since the Government rolled out the Universal Credit benefits system.
The charity claimed 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.
Sheffield Heeley MP Louise Haigh has now called for Universal Credit to be scrapped.
The Labour politician said: “This is the sickening consequence of austerity; thousands of families in Sheffield going hungry in the sixth richest economy in the world.
“Universal Credit is making the problem worse and those living with a disability, families in work on low incomes and the self-employed are among the hardest hit.
“Only a Government packed full of millionaires could have dreamt up a policy which leaves families with no money for weeks on end and can cut their support by an eye-watering £1,000 per year.”
Emma Revie, chief executive of the Trussell Trust, said: “What we are seeing year-upon-year is more and more people struggling to eat because they simply cannot afford food. This is not right.
“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.”
Nationally, the trust handed out almost 1.6 million foodbank parcels, including more than half a million to children.
The charity 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.
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.”