Universal Credit problems are driving an increase in the number of emergency parcels handed out at food banks, a charity has claimed.
The Trussell Trust said its network provided 33,557 emergency supplies across Greater Manchester, including Wigan, between April and September this year. Of those, 21,073 were for adults and 12,484 for children.
That’s an eight per cent increase on the same period in 2017, when 31,199 food parcels were handed out.
Each package contains 10 meals, which are supposed to last for three days.
The Brick Project food bank, which is the main supplier of these packages for people in the Wigan borough, has reported a 20 per cent increase, while specifying that the majority of the demand is for large families.
Louise Green, operations director at The Brick Project, said: “We are tackling this by increasing our social media appeals for food, bulk storing and actively engaging businesses to donate through this busy time.”
The Brick is currently running low on meat products, which they say has been the main disparity from last year.
And with Christmas round the corner, they have also launched a toy appeal, which will involve local businesses, Wigan Council and members of the public creating hampers to help local families.
Ms Green added: “We want to run a food community in the future to allow people dignity through choice of food.
“And we hope we can meet the demand through the generosity of the Wigan and Leigh community.”
The Brick Project isn’t the only food bank in the borough to have noticed this increase in reliance on their services.
A spokesman for The Salvation Army Wigan, said: “We don’t get as many callers as we aren’t one of the main food banks. However, we have seen an increase in the last few years.”
National research by the charity showed that delays with Universal Credit were the main reason for food bank referrals, but the Government said it was “wrong to link a rise to any one cause”.
Emma Revie, chief executive of the Trussell Trust, which supports 428 food banks across the UK, said: “Our benefits system is supposed to anchor any of us from being swept into poverty, but if Universal Credit is to do that, we need to see urgent changes.
“It’s not right that people are being forced to use food banks after weeks of waiting for Universal Credit payments.
“We’re seeing soaring levels of need at food banks.
“Food banks cannot continue to pick up the pieces - we have to make sure our benefits system can protect people from hunger.”
A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said: “Universal Credit replaces an out of date, complex benefits system with cliff edges that disincentivised work and often trapped people in unemployment.
“We have just announced that we will be increasing the amount people can earn on Universal Credit by £1,000 before their payment begins to be reduced, to ensure work always pays, and introduced £1 billion to help people moving over from the old benefits system to Universal Credit.
“This is on top of the improvements we have already made - advances have increased to 100 per cent, the seven-day waiting period has been removed and we are paying housing benefit for an additional two weeks when people move onto Universal Credit.
“The reasons why people use food banks are complex, so it’s wrong to link a rise to any one cause.”