Northumberland food banks fear 'surge' in demand due to mounting financial worries

Demand at food banks across Northumberland has increased this year, largely because so many families have been left struggling to make ends meet following the pandemic.

Friday, 24th September 2021, 7:00 am

And according to people who run them, the energy crisis is only going to make matters worse.

As part of our campaign, Keep Us Warm This Winter, to help ease our readers’ plight, we have spoken to local food bank organisers.

Clive Gibson, chairman of Alnwick District Food Bank, said: “Having operated at over 350% of our normal capacity for the last 18 months, we are worried that the rise in utility bills and reduction in Universal Credit will further increase demand.

Alnwick Food Bank.

"Additionally, increased food prices, and possible supply issues, will just add more pressure to already vulnerable households and could impact our ability to deliver the level of assistance needed.”

Becci Murray, Berwick Food Bank project manager, added: “We are expecting a surge in food bank usage when the Universal Credit uplift stops and furlough finally ends at the end of the month. This, coupled with the increase in utility costs, will exacerbate an already difficult financial scene for those we support on very limited income.

"Many of those who the Trust supports are really skilled at budgeting on a low income. However, factors outside their control such as the increase in fuel costs and the increase in national insurance skew their budget with detrimental consequences.

"We are also anticipating an increase in people who are in work and have mortgages using the food bank. These people get no support with mortgage payments, other than mortgage holidays which many will have used during the pandemic, whereas people in rented accommodation can be eligible for support with that via Universal Credit.”

Amble Food Bank trustee Bill Cruikshank added: “Amble Food Bank realises the increase in costs to families due to rising fuel costs and reduction in family credit payments is going to be a huge burden to them. We are prepared to meet challenges faced by these families.”

Wansbeck Valley Food Bank project manager Linda Fugill said: “People on limited incomes are now facing a double whammy because as well as the energy crisis, the £20 increase to Universal Credit payments comes to an end next month.

“Many of these people in Wansbeck are already facing large energy bills over the winter, so this will make things even harder for them.”