A RECORD number of city residents were helped by Worcester Foodbank over the festive period as the charity saw a 22 per cent rise in demand compared to the same period last year.
More than 940 people sought help from the vital lifeline during December with foodbank chiefs warning the unprecedented rise was a concern just two months after Universal Credit was rolled out across the city.
Universal Credit replaces six benefits with one monthly payment and is already being claimed by single jobseekers.
From October, anyone in Worcester who previously claimed income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, Employment and Support Allowance, Income Support, Working and Child Tax Credit and Housing Benefit will now claim Universal Credit.
A total of 304 people sought help from the foodbank because of benefit payment issues with a further 403 needing assistance because of low income while 141 visited the foodbank because of debt.
But it wasn’t just empty stomachs the charity was busy filling as a record 418 disadvantaged children also woke up on Christmas Day to discover a stocking filled with surprises and a gift-wrapped new toy.
It was made possible by a remarkable outpouring of generosity from local people who donated 21.6 tonnes of food during December, as well as hundreds of new gifts for children aged from birth to 18-years-old.
Foodbank manager Grahame Lucas praised the extraordinary festive goodwill of local people which helped it to feed a record number of people in the run up to Christmas.
“It’s nothing short of a miracle that we’ve been able to support a record number of people this Christmas – we’re so grateful to our volunteers and the huge number of people who have donated food and toys,” he said.
“At the same time it’s a massive concern to us we’ve had such a busy end to the year, especially as we’ve yet to see the full impact of Universal Credit in Worcester. It suggests 2019 could take us into uncharted territory.”
The full rollout of Universal Credit began in Worcester in October and the charity has warned that it could trigger a similar explosion in foodbank use already seen in other parts of the country.
It has warned it may have to find an additional 30,000 meals over the next 12 months to cope with the increase in people coming through its doors.
Visit www.worcester.foodbank.org.uk for more.