Foodbanks braced for extra demand as Universal Credit hits Fife

A foodbank in Coatbridge was raided overnight
A foodbank in Coatbridge was raided overnight

Kirkcaldy Foodbank’s commitment is to never say no to anyone in crisis.

That will be tested to the limits with the roll out of Universal Credit. And that comes at a time when demand for its help is greater than ever.

Kirkcaldy Foodbank  (Pic: Fife Photo Agency)

Kirkcaldy Foodbank (Pic: Fife Photo Agency)

October was the foodbank’s busiest month to date.

It made up 665 parcels designed to last three days, and that fed 1242 people.

It is already spending £5000 per month on supplies. And it does all of that with zero direct funding.

Now the charity is braced for up to an additional 200 requests for help every month as result of the Universal Credit roll-out. Foodbanks are a lifeline people use in times of extreme poverty.

Kirkcaldy Foodbank  (Pic: Fife Photo Agency)

Kirkcaldy Foodbank (Pic: Fife Photo Agency)

Most come between one to five times- 50 per cent are one-time applicants only - and, once back on their feet, they return with donations of their own. The fact it is there in their hour of need is what matters most.

Ian Campbell, chairman, said: ‘‘People simply do not abuse the service foodbanks offer. It’s a myth. They come to us when they need help.

‘‘They might be unemployed and facing benefit sanctions or they may be in work but their wages simply aren’t enough to support them and their families or they’ve been hit by an unexpected bill.

‘’Even a delay in getting their wages can tip them over the edge.’’

In many cases, they have no family to help, and no savings to fall back on. There is no alternative than to ask for help.

Food parcels are designed to tide people over for three days. The food is bought through donations or placed into collecting trolleys at supermarkets around town as folk buy a few extras while doing their own shopping.

The figures tell only part of the story - 609 referrals in August, 520 in September, and 665 in October. Behind every one is a family in hardship.

‘‘From January to October, we helped over 3000 children who have been in families in dire need,’’ said Ian.

‘‘We know children go to school hungry and rely on breakfast clubs and lunch clubs. In many cases that’s the only food they get until the following day.

‘‘That’s the reality of poverty in Kirkcaldy right now.’’

Launched in 2013, the foodbank has enjoyed strong support with many individual funders, but it needs business to get on board to underpin it financially and allow it to continue its vital work.

‘‘We have a network of 90 volunteers, and no-one gets paid a penny,’’ said Ian.

‘‘With an estimated 200 extra referrals coming through the Universal Credit roll-out - in truth, we don’t know what to expect - that will be a huge i9ncrease in spend for us.

‘‘We get no direct funding. Every penny is raised in our towns and every penny goes on buying food.

‘‘The challenge for us is to keep the money coming in. We had a huge support from Briggs Marine - and we need more of that from the business community.

‘‘That would make a fundamental difference.

‘‘The honest view is we do not want to have to exist.

‘‘We want to move away from being just a foodbank - but the reality is we will have to be here in some shape or form, so we have to be sustainable.

‘’We know Universal Credit will hit hard. We are projecting an extra 200 referrals. The truth is we just don’t know.’’

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