More than 2,400 emergency food packages were given out by a Lincoln charity in the last year, with around 40% of provisions going to children, latest annual figures have revealed.
The Trussell Trust, the UK’s largest foodbank network, announced it handed out a record number of meals last year to people in crisis between April 1 2016 and March 31 2017.
In Lincoln, the number of three-day emergency food parcels increased by 9.58% from 2233 to 2447. The number of children recorded as receiving emergency food aid increased by 17%, from 813 to 952.
The increase sits far above the national average increase of 6.64%, as outlined in the report published on Tuesday, April 25.
The number of food package handouts also increased in a number of other areas across Lincolnshire.
The highest increase in demand was recorded in Stamford at over 30%.
Stats did not take into account North and North East Lincolnshire as they’re counted separately by the charity.
Charity leaders placed blame on the introduction of the government’s flagship welfare overhaul. They say the rollout of Universal Credit is leaving people unable to afford meals when their benefits were delayed.
The UK government has however said the reasons for food bank use were “complex”. A DWP spokesperson added “It’s misleading to link them to any one issue.”
This system is yet to be rolled out in full in Lincoln.
Bethan Lloyd, programme coordinator for the Lincoln network of Trussell Trust foodbanks, told The Lincolnite: “In Lincoln we have had a consistently high level of children referred to foodbanks, partly due to the fact that Lincoln has some of the most deprived child poverty areas.
“Child poverty is still an issue in Lincoln. It’s difficult to say the reason why. Each case is very different from the next.
“Nationally the charity is seeing a high number of referrals take place as a result of benefit changes and the roll out of Universal Credit.
“Lincoln is yet to see the affect of this as it’s still in the first stages of change. Universal Credit will be rolled out in full later this year so at the minute we haven’t seen a great deal of impact.
“We’re trying to prepare but we won’t know what hits us until it’s rolled out. Since the country has seen an impact it’s likely.
“We helped around 2,500 people in the last year, a third of whom were children.
“Everything we have is donation based. It’s a bitter sweet situation in that while it’s sad that 2,500 people have needed support in the last year, the other side is that the food is there for them, all provided by kind member of the local community.
“It’s difficult to say what the solution is when each person is in such a unique situation. Drawing attention to the issue is great. There is a forgotten poverty line in the UK.”
David McAuley, Chief Executive of The Trussell Trust added: “Foodbanks see first-hand how changes to the welfare system affect people on the ground, and so can offer an early warning to decision-makers.
“We are sharing our early observations with the Department for Work and Pensions to ensure any adverse side effects Universal Credit can have on people are addressed before full rollout is completed.”
‘Not a surprise’
The City of Lincoln Council has committed to an Anti Poverty Strategy for 2014-2020, with reductions in child and food poverty among its commitments.
Martin Walmsley, Assistant Director for Strategic Development, said: “The number of foodbank referrals is not a surprise – we are working extremely hard with a number of partners in the city through our Lincoln Against Poverty initiatives to further understand the reasons for this.
“Data shows there a number of reasons for foodbank presentations, including benefit sanctions and waiting for new claims to be processed.
“Tackling the root causes rather than the need to access foodbanks is recognised as key and the council aims to do this through several initiatives.
“For example, projects which help to increase skills and employment opportunities, a proactive Discretionary Housing Payment policy, as well as a specialised Welfare and Debt Advice Team.
“Universal Credit is already rolled out in Lincoln as of November 30, 2015, but only to a limited client group – mainly single person households, and new claims only. The current planned national schedule has Lincoln timetabled for the next stage of rollout – new claims for all client groups, from March 2018.”