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Carlisle's homeless surviving on £1 microwave meals

Homeless families in Carlisle are surviving on instant noodles and £1 microwave meals as benefits changes begin to bite.

More than 2,000 people in Cumbria have turned to a service specifically set up in the wake of Government welfare reforms in its first nine months.

Some of the help being asked for includes paying for food, energy bills, and furniture, as well as benefits and debt advice, and leaving temporary accommodation.

Nearly half of those who contacted Cumbria County Council’s Welfare Assistance Scheme had problems with their benefits.

And 18 per cent had children under 18 while half were given financial help through the initiative.

Mark Lloyd, director of Sustainable Carlisle, works with homeless and hard-up families to help provide them with the skills to cook healthy, affordable meals for themselves.

He said many families struggling with welfare changes could only afford to live on a diet of Pot Noodles and ready meals.

“When people are in hardship the quality of the food they are eating is one of the first things to go out of the window,” he said.

One 20-year-old woman, who lives at the Water Street homeless shelter in Carlisle, told the News & Star: “I tend to rely on ready meals because they’re quick and easy and only cost £1. You can just put them in the microwave.

“I’ve been living in the hostel for two months now – it’s really hard at the moment.

“I have managed to recently get a job but I can’t find anywhere to live because nobody seems willing to take on young people like me.”

Cumbria County Council is now dishing out more than £60,000 to help those hit hardest by the welfare reforms.

The cash will be shared among six organisations throughout the county which work directly with hard-up families in crisis in a bid to make them more “financially resilient”.

Beth Furneaux, cabinet member for health and care services, said: “The figures for those who have contacted us speak for themselves – there are many people who are struggling financially.

“But these projects aren’t about just handing out cash or food – they’re designed to help people to help themselves.

“From growing their own food and financial planning to helping them live more active lifestyles, the projects will benefit those most in need.”

Sustainable Carlisle will get more than £9,000 for a new service giving families access to affordable and healthy food.

Mr Lloyd explained: “We will be cooking a weekly meal prepared by a qualified chef at the Water Street hostel.

“It will give people the skills to prepare food and cook for themselves on a limited budget.”

He added that every fourth week a meal would be cooked at other community settings in the city – giving even more people the chance to pick up the culinary skills.

There will also be advice on hand from other agencies, including the Credit Union and the Carlisle Alcohol and Drug Advisory Service.

The Water Street shelter resident added: “It’s really helpful because it gives me an idea of what I can cook for myself.”

Have your say

Wow! Comments I've seen and heard! I am one who is on benefits! I send 20+ applications for jobs per week. Some of which I'm not qualified for in an attempt to gain qualifications on the job. It's rare to find one which didn't need qualifications. As I do this I have been using £20 a month out of my benefits to gain a diploma to start my own nail business due to the lack of work available to myself. I have 3 children ams I'm also divorced. I live in a 650 pound a month rented house which takes a lot for the shortfall. I have been on the council waiting list for 8 years without joy. With 4 people I can only afford to pay £30 per week on food due to the latest caps and tax force. Most of which can be only spent on microwave meals. We don't have a tv, I'm using Internet through my library computer and video games we don't believe in. I dont have a car, mobile or ipad. I get seen as a scally because I'm on benefits. It's awful! My cv has a long list of experience in many things but each time I apply to a job, someone with more exp gets it or someone younger! Is high time snobby people with brilliant jobs stop criticising and help under privileged families find work instead of sitting back thinking they are lazy! I'll swap you my life and let's see how far you get!

Posted by melanie on 7 June 2014 at 15:36

Richard Hardy, you need to stop reading the Daily Mail mate or get a reality check if you are assuming that all unemployed people smoke 20 fags a day...... you forgot to mention the 50inch screen Tv sets, top of the range mobile phones and foreign holidays, as for 26 grand a year to all unemployed people..... behave.

The usual claptrap that is spouted by such newspapers, if you beleive that you will beleive anything!

Many people who live on the breadline DO work but rely on benefits to help them survive.

Posted by ian on 8 May 2014 at 11:12

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