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Soaring demand at Carlisle foodbank amid benefits chaos

Demand on a foodbank has become so great that organisers are having to buy in supplies to meet the needs of hard-up residents.

Carlisle bishop photo
Bishop of Carlisle James Newcome and Andy Beeforth, deputy chairman of Cumbria Third Sector network

Volunteers at the Carlisle Foodbank are handing out between 50 and 80 food parcels every week as families feel the pinch – many because of the Government’s controversial welfare reforms.

The increasing demand on the charity was revealed as a report from a commission headed by the Bishop of Carlisle painted a picture of chaos surrounding the benefits system – and called on the bedroom tax to be axed in the county, saying the charge had caused “considerable hardship”.

Carlisle Foodbank was one of about 100 organisations and individuals that gave evidence to the Cumbria Commission on Welfare Reform.

Rachael Rodway, who helped set up the charity in 2012, praised its donors but said demand had tripled in two years, with many blaming their increasing hardship on the impact of changes to the benefits system that have left them worse off.

She said: “Between March and April 2013 our needs doubled virtually overnight with the impact of the single payments going and the introduction of bedroom tax.

“Our members are tremendous but we are having to buy in food because the donations [can’t meet the demand]. Our stocks are the lowest I’ve seen them since I started.”

She added that they were seeing a lot more families coming forward for help and they were considering setting up a satellite operation in Brampton to tackle the problem of rural poverty.

Earlier this year the foodbank, which is based at the Salvation Army building in St Nicholas Street, received a funding boost of more than £8,000 from Cumbria County Council. The commission’s report reveals that controversial benefits cuts will take Cumbria £138m a year out of the economy, with many families now in financial crisis.

It was tasked with looking at what impact welfare reforms were having on the county.

In one of its key conclusions, the Rt Rev James Newcome and the commission’s other panel members called for the bedroom tax – which charges people in social housing for every bedroom they have in their home that’s deemed to not be needed – to be scrapped in Cumbria because there are not the overcrowding issues here that there are elsewhere.

The Bishop says the issues in Cumbria are complicated by a shortage of one and two-bedroom houses for people to move into and the rules do not take into account “split families” – where custody of children was shared between separated parents.

“It creates so many complications and it’s to the detriment of family life,” he said. “That particular reform isn’t saving a lot of money especially in a county like this.”

The 101-page report has outlined 12 recommendations including: maintaining weekly/fortnightly benefits payments; a change in rules to ensure penalty sanctions are not disproportionate; and a change in assessments for disability benefits to reduce delays.

The Bishop said he hoped that it could bring about a change and added that he would present the findings to local MPs and Government.

Andy Beeforth, the deputy chairman of Cumbria Third Sector Network, which commissioned the report, said changes to Government policies were an ambitious aim but they could provide information about what was happening locally.

Have your say

So more and more are using food banks
Has anyone ever spotted the fact that most who do use them both smoke and drink maybeif they gave them up there mmoney would go further

Posted by land of plenty on 17 July 2014 at 16:46

I think this government is a waste of space how they got in beats me I was better off before these lot came in. I bet the politicians still get perks of the job and we are all struggler lung. As for this country we have let to many foreigners in

Posted by Tracey Mitchinson on 16 July 2014 at 18:02

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