Sanctions on those claiming benefits is one reason why demand for food banks is soaring in Bradford, it has been claimed, as the Government announced it is investigating why there has been a dramatic rise in free food handouts.
The Trussell Trust in Bradford said it was distributing nearly double the number of foodboxes it did 12 months ago. A total of 75 vouchers were accepted in January last year, helping 97 adults and 70 children, compared to 120 vouchers accepted, or 177 adults helped and 98 children, last month.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has commissioned the research to examine the extent and effectiveness of emergency food aid, amid concern that increasing numbers of low-paid and benefit-dependent households are being forced to use charity food sources.
A volunteer at the Trussell Trust, based in the Light Church, Bradford, said it was seeing people from all walks of life and the rising demand could be blamed on the struggling economy and a jobs’ shortage.
“We have people who have been made redundant and those who are in a crisis,” she said.
“They could be waiting for benefits or are believed to have not looked for enough jobs and could have been sanctioned without benefits for weeks and have nothing at all so come to us.
“That means quite a lot end up here needing help.”
Councillor David Green, the leader of Labour-run Bradford Council, said: “The food banks are all over Yorkshire, including Bradford.
“I am not quite sure why they want to carry out research because I would have thought it was stunningly obvious. People are struggling to feed their families and I am not sure what they can find out.”
Up to £500,000 has been earmarked in the Council’s budget for 2013/14 to help those struggling to find housing, and will pay for bed and breakfasts.
Coun Green said: “We can give small one-off payments to people and it is there to prevent distress to children and families. But it is mostly the responsibility of Department of Work and Pensions and the Jobcentres.”
The Bradford Metropolitan Foodbank, which operates out of St Mary’s Church, Barkerend, is distributing 500 parcels a month compared to their recent output of 300 packages a month.
Founder Lashman Singh said: “Community centres on estates such as Holme Wood are also getting food from us to hand out in their community.
“It is obvious about the political climate we are in and that people really haven’t got jobs and then you have the changes in the benefit system.
“Without the help of the public we would not be able to give out this volume of food parcels.”
Streetwise is a project run by the Life Church, Wapping Road, which dishes out hot food in the city centre twice a week.
Leader Les Szpakowski said in the six years he had been with the project he had seen numbers increase massively.
He said: “When I first started doing it, there were 25 people. Last year, on a summer’s night, we got 70 people.”