Children’s Commissioner
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Shining a light on foodbanks and Universal Credit

Blog posted by: Chris Thompson, 01 October 2018.

Universal Credit, a new benefit which is replacing some existing benefits into one monthly payment, is rolling out across the country.

Over the coming months we will be checking in regularly with a foodbank in an area which is currently transitioning to Universal Credit. We will track their progress and hear first hand from one of their members of staff to see how the rollout affects families and children.

Let’s be Ready

1 November 2018

“People will be managing, they’ll push themselves as far as they can, then all of a sudden they can’t manage anymore,” says Linda.

It’s half term, and visits to the foodbank can fluctuate significantly during this time.

In one of the foodbanks where Linda works, last week 33 people presented with vouchers, up from 25 the previous week. “Holiday hunger is huge. We’ll feed any family that gets school meals,” Linda tells me.

While some foodbanks are busier, others can be quieter in the half term break. “People don’t want to take their kids to a foodbank.” There can be stigma and shame associated with accessing this service and some parents don’t want their children to know where their food is coming from.

According to Linda, men in particular, can be uncomfortable using foodbanks. Whilst eighty percent of the volunteers are women, Linda tells me how one foodbank is staffed entirely by male volunteers. This has had a positive impact on the men who access the service, particularly around communication issues. Staffing the foodbank with male volunteers completely changes the feel of the place; as Linda puts it, “Men like to talk to men.”

And what has the impact of Universal Credit been like here? In real terms there hasn’t been a massive increase so far. But if the pattern Linda has seen in other areas holds true, it will be a couple of months before they see a sudden jump. People only received their letters a few weeks ago, “so they’ll need to return to the job centre, sign on, and then there’s a 5-7 week wait.”

With over 250 volunteers and collections taking place in the local railway station, the local football stadium as well as local supermarkets, Linda feels very lucky to have a small army of volunteers at the ready. But without the donations there’s concern about being able to meet the need.

“We’ve seen a 52% rise in places that have had Universal Credit for a year, so we’re thinking, “let’s be ready.” But we’re worried about stock levels.”

We’ll be hearing again from Linda over the coming weeks.

*Names changed for confidentiality


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