As Universal Credit rolls 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 UC to see if there is any noticeable impact on the number of families with children using their services. We will hear the first hand experiences of one of the foodbank’s members of staff.
“The third sector is bearing the brunt,” says Linda.
“It’s not just us. Agencies who we refer to are at their capacity.”
These agencies often sit in on foodbank sessions so they can get referrals directly. They offer a range of additional support that is outside a foodbank’s remit. Whereas they would sit in on the foodbank sessions once a week, since UC has been rolled out they only have capacity to come every two weeks.
“We can’t make as many appointments so they might not get seen. We can give leaflets but it’s not the same of having them in situ. They’re overwhelmed with referrals and can’t give us the time they used to”
Linda has also had a chance to look back over the half term week.
“The week before we had people queuing up outside for half an hour before we opened. They were panicked that the children would be at home with no food.”
“If you have free school meals and then in half term you may have four mouths to feed – that’s a lot.”
The queue was so long Linda had to triage.
“Some of the people in the queue were from support agencies attending on behalf of clients who couldn’t afford the bus fare. I had to ask agency workers who had their own transport to go to another centre.”
And as usual, it’s not just food that the centre offered.
“I research free activities and print out directions of how to get there. It’s easier in the summer months when the kids can go outside but in winter they need places to go.”
For Linda, there is a bigger picture.
“So much is being done by the third sector where statutory services have been withdrawn.”
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