I’ve called on the government to do more to support local people through the coronavirus crisis as demand for food parcels soars.
The Trussell Trust has released figures from its UK-wide network which reveal an alarming increase in the number of people who have turned to food banks for support.
Figures, which reflect the need for emergency food parcels during the last two weeks of March 2020 show an 81% increase in the number of emergency food parcels distributed by Trussell Trust food banks compared with the same time last year and a 122% rise in the number of parcels given to children. The most common reasons given for referral to a food bank were a fall in income from work or benefits and sickness.
Data from the Independent Food Aid Network, which represents food banks operating independently of the Trussell Trust network, shows similar increases in the support provided.
At the same time, nearly two million people have applied for Universal Credit since the government advised people to stay at home due to coronavirus. Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey said there had been more than 1.8 million claims since 16 March.
In response, I’ve urged Ministers to immediately reform the social security system to better support claimants. Along with other Labour MPs, I’ve called on the government to convert Universal Credit advances into grants instead of loans, ending the five-week wait, and remove the £16,000 savings limit which disqualifies individuals from accessing Universal Credit.
Labour has also proposed that the government suspend the benefit cap, abolish the two-child limit in Universal Credit and tax credits, and implement an immediate increase in Jobseeker’s Allowance and Employment Support Allowance.
Demand for food parcels has also increased locally so please continue to donate to local food banks. The public response so far has been inspiring but food bank volunteers have told me that they are still running low on supplies.
You can find up-to-date contact details for local food banks and information on how to donate supplies here.
S2 food bank is coordinating financial donations across the city, so please donate money through their website if you can.