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    KL1 Radio Local Radio for West Norfolk

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    EPISODE 35 OF THE FARMING SOCIAL HUB PODCAST

Local News

‘We shouldn’t even have food banks’ working people lining up for food parcels

todaySeptember 30, 2021

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Ten years on from the opening of the Lynn foodbank and the organisation is busier than ever.

Pandemic job loss and cuts to Universal Credit, means many West Norfolk residents have resorted to charity to put food on the table.

The Lynn food bank reached a 10-year milestone last week with organiser Helen Gilbert saying “my aim is to close food banks, we shouldn’t have to use them in this country.”

The Food Bank in Lynn, Helen Gilbert and a volunteer get ready for the service users Credit Lynn News (51770893)
The Food Bank in Lynn, Helen Gilbert and a volunteer get ready for the service users Credit Lynn News (51770893)

Figures compiled by the food bank in Lynn show that food bank usage correlates with Universal Credit changes.

There was a sharp rise in use in April and March 2020, at the start of the pandemic, yet usage declined with the introduction of school meal vouchers and the £20 uptick in Universal Credit.

Ms Gilbert said: “We always get higher use in the winter, but that £20 loss is worth a lot to these families.

The food bank at the Eternity Centre in Downham Credit Lynn News (51766545)
The food bank at the Eternity Centre in Downham Credit Lynn News (51766545)

“A lot of our service users are working, around 40 per cent of them. Homeless people only account for seven per cent.

“Single parents and those who are on living wage often need to use us to get through the month, it shouldn’t be like this.

“One of our concerns is the stigma around food bank use, if people are struggling we are here to help, not to judge.”

The Food Bank in Lynn, Helen Gilbert and a volunteer get ready for the service users Credit Lynn News (51770888)
The Food Bank in Lynn, Helen Gilbert and a volunteer get ready for the service users Credit Lynn News (51770888)

The Lynn food bank has a fund to provide one off relief for those struggling to make ends meet with higher energy use this winter.

Ms Gilbert said: “The rise in energy cost with heating means many people need to come to us, we can provide help for that.”

The Eternity Centre in Downham was busy on a Friday, with many residents waiting patiently in line for their food parcels.

The food bank at the Eternity Centre in Downham Credit Lynn News (51766548)
The food bank at the Eternity Centre in Downham Credit Lynn News (51766548)

Run entirely by volunteers the food bank has seen an increase in people using their service in recent weeks, since it was announced that Universal Credit had been slashed.

Head volunteer Linden Leake said: “I do this because sadly there is a need, there shouldn’t be in this day and age it’s disgraceful.

“As long as there is a need however we will keep going.”

Project manager Alex Coates said: “It’s not just people on benefits using us it’s people from all walks of life.

“The UC is just not enough to survive on, and that £20 was really a help to those struggling.

“We can’t believe that just before the start of winter it’s been taken away.

“During the pandemic we’ve seen an increase in usage and at the moment we’ve had more people.”

One man called John, who used to work in media,sat at a table, he was well spoken and is on disability payments for mental health- he once had a flourishing career, but has lived on the breadline for six years.

He revealed that he hadn’t eaten in four days and had to rely on handouts from his neighbours.

He said: “You just sleep as much as you can and wait for the next payment.”

Men sat in the corner, not wanting to have their picture taken.

They said they had children to feed, that Universal Credit wasn’t enough for them to survive.

The Food Bank in Lynn, Helen Gilbert and a volunteer get ready for the service users Credit Lynn News (51770896)
The Food Bank in Lynn, Helen Gilbert and a volunteer get ready for the service users Credit Lynn News (51770896)

The three men painted a sad picture of modern day England, a country that boasts enormous wealth, yet so many are living at the mercy and goodwill of charitable organisations.

Michelle ‘Shell’ Adams was previously in employment until last year, where she suffered an injury. She has a teenage daughter.

She said: “It’s hard when you have a child on your own, I was working and now I’m stuck waiting for these payments – I come here most weeks, I don’t have a choice at the moment.”

Amber Goss, a mum-of-four who works as a carer in Lynn, spoke about her life on UC.

She said: “UC expect me to pay my childcare before I’ve claimed the money back. Which means I have to borrow it or dip into the money I’ve earned and then as soon as it’s back have to pay it out again.

“Now I’m in arrears with the nursery because I can’t afford to cover it upfront, which means my children could lose their place and it could jeopardise my employment.”

Chloe Burton of Downham shared her story of surviving on Universal Credit.

She said: “In May of last year during covid I had to leave my job and was put on Universal Credit.

“I have two children and one is currently being examined for possible autism so it’s hard.

“After universal credits give me my payment, I pay all of the house bill and this leaves me with £200 a month.

“Some people say that is plenty, but then doing my food shop for the month, I literally have £50 to survive off.

“So if my children need a new pair of shoes for school it’s a struggle.

“Thanks to Sue Hewitt who does a clothes bank in Downham,. I’ve managed to get my children some clothes.

“I haven’t managed to get my children new school jumpers yet from school because I physically cannot afford it.

“Universal credit ring me every two weeks pushing me to find a job, I suffer from anxiety and depression which has gotten worse since Covid.

“ I also live in a little village so I rely on my grandmother to get my children from and to school, the government does not take into account people’s personal problems.

“ When I spoke to them and explained my situation they said to me If I don’t do a course they put me on my money will be decreased. If it wasn’t for the help and support the community have to offer now. I.e food banks, clothes banks I wouldn’t know what to do.”

The poverty in Britain is nothing new, however in recent years it has come to light that the UK’s living wage workforce are more likely to be living in sub-standard conditions.

The DWP released figures for poverty in Britain for 2019 and 2020.

It showed that 11.7 million people in the UK are living in poverty and 14.5 million were on low income.

Whilst rates of abject poverty have gone down, those who are working at minimum and living wage are likely to suffer the most.



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Written by: admin

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