Benefit delays blamed for rise in Rugby foodbank users

Rugby foodbank volunteers pictured last year NNL-160420-130327001
Rugby foodbank volunteers pictured last year NNL-160420-130327001

Delays in handing out benefits are being blamed for a sharp rise in people using the foodbank in Rugby.

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.

Rugby Foodbank has seen a dramatic increase of 61 per cent in the second half of 2016-17 which it feels is partly attributable 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 to that of the previous financial year is very worrying.”

Rugby Foodbank shares the concerns of other Trussell Trust foodbanks in Universal Credit rollout areas about the adverse side effects the new system can have on people.

The more than six-week waiting period for a first payment can contribute to debt, mental health issues and rent arrears.

The effects of these can last even after people receive their Universal Credit payments, as bills and debts pile up.

“Anybody could find themselves in need of the foodbank,” Ms Mansell said.

“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 – means food is simply unaffordable.

“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.”

A DWP spokesman said the reasons for foodbank use are complex, so it is misleading to link them 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.”

Rugby Foodbank is working hard to stop local people affected going hungry but is troubled by the extra pressure this puts on food donation stocks and volunteers’ time.

As well as providing emergency food, Rugby Foodbank provides essentials like toiletries, nappies, sanitary products and pet food to families who are struggling, as well as signposting them to other services in the local area.

Around 50 tonnes of food has been donated to Rugby Foodbank with over 60 regular volunteers helping support the needy.

Local individuals, schools, businesses and faith groups have provided vital support to the foodbank, enabling us to give three days’ nutritionally balanced food and support to people in crisis.

“Thank you so much to everyone in Rugby who already donates time, food and money to help local people,” Ms Mansell said.

“If you’re not already involved, we’d love to hear from you.”