Foodbank use could jump by 50 per cent because of Universal Credit rollout in Northampton, claims volunteer

Volunteer Amy Wightman bags up parcels of food at Emmanuel Church.
Volunteer Amy Wightman bags up parcels of food at Emmanuel Church.

A Weston Favell foodbank volunteer says she would not be surprised if its usage leaps by 50 per cent in a year following the rollout of Universal Credit in Northampton this week.

Each week around 25 people head to Emmanuel Church to pick up two vital bags of groceries that will sustain them for three days.

Lorraine Bewley-Tipper, right, says she would not be surprised if the rollout of Universal Credit led to a 50 per cent increase in those using the Emmanuel Church foodbank.

Lorraine Bewley-Tipper, right, says she would not be surprised if the rollout of Universal Credit led to a 50 per cent increase in those using the Emmanuel Church foodbank.

Some of them have lost jobs; some work barely enough hours to keep afloat; some have families; some are disabled.

Former lecturers, part-time cleaners, recently released prisoners and people unable to work through disability all rub shoulders in the cafe there beforehand every Wednesday.

But - even under the current system - at least two-thirds need to stock their cupboards because a change to their benefits has left them out of pocket.

Today, Universal Credit was rolled out in Northampton, meaning those making new claims for things like jobseekers' allowance will have to wait five weeks before receiving their first welfare cheque.

One foodbank user told the Chron she may have to resort to shoplifting to make ends meet if she had to apply for Universal Credit.

One foodbank user told the Chron she may have to resort to shoplifting to make ends meet if she had to apply for Universal Credit.

In places where it has already come into force, Trussell Trust foodbanks have reported a 52 per cent rise in usage after the first year.

This is why one of its longest-serving volunteers, Lorraine Bewley-Tipper, says she would not be surprised if the rollout of Universal Credit led to a similar increase at the Emmanuel Church.

“With Universal Credit you are talking about people having to wait five weeks, maybe longer without any money,” she said,

“I saw a lady last year who was pregnant who waited her entire pregnancy for her Universal Credit to come through.”

The foodbank at Weston Favell has never had to rely on the Trussell Trust, its parent organisation, to supply it with donations - such is the local level of support for the service.

“People regularly come in with a trolley of food,” said Lorraine.

But she believes that will change next year as demand increases.

Today, its users told the Chronicle and Echo how applying for Universal Credit could leave them in a desperate situation.

Tanya Dawes, who lives in Weston Favell with her four children, has had to resort to shoplifting in the past to make ends meet.

"That five-week wait would be bad for me, I am useless with money," she said.

"I have bipolar so I like to spend, I can't budget very well but I don't mean to do it.

"I have been in court before for shoplifting - I'm not going to lie - the only way I could get through would be to do that again and sell stuff. I will do whatever it takes to feed my children."

The foodbank needs more volunteers to help with an increasingly intensive sorting operation. Anyone who would like to help the can contact Lorraine or Jo on 01604 402150.