Rugby foodbank users struggling to cope with benefit changes

Volunteers sort the donations at Rugby Foodbank's warehouse. Photo: Rugby Foodbank NNL-170426-105339001
Volunteers sort the donations at Rugby Foodbank's warehouse. Photo: Rugby Foodbank NNL-170426-105339001

After a string of upbeat surveys praising Rugby’s quality of life, the latest foodbank statistics have triggered a very different set of headlines.

Figures showed a sharp rise in people using Rugby Foodbank with delays in handing out benefits seen as a big problem.

I’m finding it really hard struggling and really run down, it’s affecting my mental health too.

Foodbank user Michael, from Newbold

Having been a trial area for Universal Credit, Rugby Borough was one of the first five local authorities to get the full rollout of the system in May last year.

Theresa May came under fire for insisting there were ‘many complex reasons why people go to foodbanks’ on The Andrew Marr Show after reports that nurses are having to use foodbanks.

One person who has been referred to the foodbank and was there last week was Michael, 33, from Newbold.

He told the Advertiser he had been without benefits for two months because the DWP messed up his Universal Credit application.

“I’ve not been coping very well – I’m really up and down. I normally pay my mum £20 a fortnight in rent but I haven’t been able to,” he said.

“It’s been really tough and people say why don’t you ask family or friends but I don’t like to ask. I’ve always liked being independent.”

Michael walked to the Methodist Centre, where the foodbank is held, as he has no money for the bus and said he knows many others in similar situation.

He lives with his mum and has struggled to get a job. He’s lived in Rugby for 10 years and said he didn’t know what he would do without the foodbank’s help.

“I’m finding it really hard struggling and really run down, it’s affecting my mental health too,” he said.

More than 4,000 three-day emergency supplies have been given to those in crisis in Rugby since April, 2016, an increase of around 30 per cent.

But Rugby Foodbank has seen a dramatic increase of 61 per cent in the second half of 2016-17, which it feels is partly due to the pressures caused by Universal Credit delay.

Manager Diana Mansell said: “It is deeply concerning that 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 with that of the previous financial year is very worrying.”

A DWP spokesman said the reasons for foodbank use are complex, so it is misleading to link it to any one issue.

“Employment is the best route out of poverty, and there are now record numbers of people in work. Under Universal Credit people are moving into work faster and staying in work longer than under the old system,” he said.

“Universal Credit is designed to mirror the world of work and give people control over their own finances.

“The majority of Universal Credit claimants are confident in managing their money and we work closely with local authorities to support those who need extra help.

“Budgeting support, benefit advances, and direct rent payments to landlords are available to those who need them.”

Benefit delays blamed for rise in Rugby foodbank users