‘Benefit delays are forcing desperate people into food banks'

Knottingley Food Bank say referrals are on the rise.
Knottingley Food Bank say referrals are on the rise.

Food banks in Knottingley and Pontefract have said the roll out of universal credit has led to a major increase in referrals.

The Trussell Trust, which runs both services among many others in Yorkshire, recently revealed figures that showed more than 4,260 three-day emergency rations were handed out in the Wakefield district between April 2018 and March 2019.

Janet Burns from Knottingley Food Bank

Janet Burns from Knottingley Food Bank

The trust said across the UK there was a 19 per cent increase in referrals.

The Trussell Trust’s chief executive Emma Revie said: “What we are seeing year-upon-year is more and more people struggling to eat because they simply cannot afford food.

“Enough is enough. We know this situation can be fixed.

“Our benefits system is supposed to protect us all from being swept into poverty.”

Many agree that universal credit - brought in to replace the old benefits system - has had a serious impact.

Supposedly designed to simplify the benefit system, it has led to delays in claimants receiving their cash, leaving many with little option.

Janet Burns, who works at the food bank run from Knottingley Community Church on Tythe Barn Road, said: “We’ve been open six years and there’s been a steady increase, certainly since universal credit was rolled out in our area.

“People don’t have the resources to fall back on when there’s a change. Unfortunately, it’s a sad state of affairs.”

Ian Clark from Pontefract food bank helps run the town’s service at the Central Methodist Church on Newgate, and he says the benefit system means they have to support people for longer.

“What’s causing the problem is the long waiting time, a minimum of five weeks once they are put on universal credit,” he said.

“It’s difficult for people who have worked all their lives and they find themselves in a heartbreaking position.

“Some feel ashamed that they have to come to see us.

“These are people who have had doors closed in their faces, our point is that we are an open door and a welcoming organisation.”