Bosses at Washington foodbank say demand set to rise following benefits cap changes
Bosses at a Wearside foodbank project say they expect to see an increase in demand for items following changes to the benefits system.
Washington foodbank operates from a number of different sites in the new town, although it is mainly based at Oxclose Church.
Formed in 2012, the organisation helps an average of 105 people a month, some of who are repeat beneficiaries.
Clients are referred from Gentoo, the Jobcentre or health workers but self referrals are not accepted.
Donna Marie Hannah, secretary of the foodbank, said: “We collect donations of food in tins and packets from customers at Asda and Sainsbury’s along with collection points at the Galleries Library and the Blue House Lane Pharmacy.
“We are unable to handle fresh food however.”
From Monday, the total amount a Wearside couple or a single parent can receive in benefits will be £384.62 a week, or £1,666.67 per month, which amounts to a maximum of £20,000 per year.
“In the past year we have seen a steady rise in the number of people struggling while in low paid work and those who are transferred from one benefit to another, and sometimes back to the first benefit,” Donna added.
“We have also noticed an increase in larger families applying for help from the food bank in the last few months.
“As a result of the benefit cap being applied to larger families from Monday, we anticipate that such referrals will increase.”
Donna, who also fundraises for the foodbank by holding a weekly bonus ball competition at her place of work, HMRC in Waterview Park, added that the service has become vital to some helping some families survive.
“I think it’s completely sad that we have to be there to help but it is needed,” she said.
“A few weeks ago a couple with two children got in touch with me through Facebook to say that they were really struggling.
“There had been changes to their benefits and that weekend they practically had no feed for them and their kids.
“Without the foodbank’s help they would have been starving.
“It really tugs on the heartstrings to hear things like that.
“It’s not just people who are on benefits who use the foodbank, though. With the cost of living and cuts in wages, some people are struggling to pay their mortgages and can’t afford food.”
Food donations can be dropped off at Oxclose Church, Sainsbury’s or Asda at the Galleries, the town centre library in the Galleries, St Michael’s Church in Sulgrave, Blue House Pharmacy in Concord, among others.
For more information go to www.wcfp.org.uk.