Northampton charity criticises Universal Credit for 'killing people' as it prepares to open food bank over the school holidays
"The children that have been benefitting from free school meals have been worried they are going to struggle over the holidays. I want to tell them they won't struggle."
A Northampton charity is set to open a food bank to meet the 'big demand' over the school summer holidays in the NN3 area.
Shine Development Concept CIT, based in Kettering Road, is opening its food bank for the eighth consecutive year at Rectory Farm Centre this summer.
Ayo Ogunbuyide, 40, from Shine, said: "The children that have been benefitting from free school meals have been worried they are going to struggle over the holidays. I want to tell them they won't struggle. We will be supporting them. They can come here and pick up a food parcel.
"There's a big demand for this. People have been furloughed and are facing financial difficulties.
"Every half-term we have gone to Rectory Farm Centre. A lot of the parents asked last year if we could do this over the school holidays as well."
When asked why there was such a big demand for food banks in the town, Ayo criticised the Universal Credit (UC) system.
He said: "There are different things for different people. Most of the clients we have are those who are on the waiting list for UC.
"When someone is approved for UC, for five weeks they don't get any money. The five-week waiting period is killing people. As soon as people get approved for UC, pay them immediately.
"During the pandemic the government added £20 to UC, but now the government is taking it away. Our clients are really agitated about that, too."
Ayo added that the three main types of people who rely on food parcels in Northampton include people waiting for UC, people who are not getting enough UC, and immigrants who come to work and study but are unable to claim for financial support.
Asked how he would fix this crisis, Ayo said: "Immediate payments of UC. During the five-week waiting period, a lot of people get pay day loans. People resort to loans and they have that debt for a long time."
The food bank will be open every Monday between 2pm and 3pm from August 2 until September 5. It will be available to anyone in the NN3 area, and appointments or referrals are not needed. There will also be a delivery service for those unable to leave their home.
Rectory Farm Conservative councillor, James Hill, will also be helping at the food bank this summer.
He said: "I think every little helps. We know holiday hunger is a big issue and we will do our best to help where we can."
Between 1 April 2020 and 31 March 2021, food banks in the Trussell Trust’s UK wide network distributed 2.5 million emergency food parcels to people in crisis, a 33 per cent increase on the previous year. 980,000 of these went to children.
Emma Revie, chief executive of the Trussell Trust, said: "No one should face the indignity of needing emergency food. Yet our network of food banks has given out record numbers of food parcels as more and more people struggle without enough money for the essentials.
"This is not right but we know we can build a better future. This pandemic has shown the unexpected can hit suddenly, but we know when we push for change, united by our desire for justice and compassion, the government has to listen and act.
“We are asking you, the public, to write to your local candidates asking them to commit to working to end the need for food banks. Together, we can take action now to build a hunger free future.”