AROUND a dozen people are waiting outside the doors of the Salvation Army in Keighley when the clock strikes 12.30pm on Thursday, and the food bank opens its doors.

The charity runs one of a number of food banks in the town, helping those who by no fault of their own simply cannot afford to put food on the table.

The cost of living crisis, with the prices of energy bills, fuel and food creeping ever higher, combined with what they say is a benefits system not fit for purpose, has meant more people are reliant on food banks than ever before.

Keighley is no different to other parts of the Bradford district; it paints a similar picture to visits to Bradford Central Food Bank and Ilkley Food Bank, working people, parents and families, the long-term ill and those between jobs simply unable to make ends meet.

Low wages, high prices, the loss of the Universal Credit uplift and more have all combined to create a food crisis which really shouldn’t exist in 21st Century Great Britain.

Josh Selfe is the captain of the Keighley Salvation Army, and greets clients as they arrive, directing them to volunteers who get them a hot drink, a biscuit, their food parcels and lend an ear and advice to help with people’s problems.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Keighley Salvation Army captain Josh Selfe welcomes clientsKeighley Salvation Army captain Josh Selfe welcomes clients

He said: “As well as food, we have partners who come and give advice on debt, education, whatever problems there are; we have local partners who can help.

“A lot of the time people just want to feel like they are being properly listened to.

“Universal Credit is one of the biggest things, it just isn’t covering people’s expenses. People have to wait six weeks to get it and that has a knock-on effect which can lead to debt which can take a long time to recover from.

“With Universal Credit, if people are struggling to get by that affects everything; their ability to go out and look for work, we have to make sure people are adequately financially supported.

“We campaigned against the removal of the Universal Credit uplift and the gap in payment; we see how difficult the system makes it for people to make positive changes.”

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Cakes and a hot drink are respite for people living in real povertyCakes and a hot drink are respite for people living in real poverty

He hopes that the £33 million Keighley Towns Fund cash will make a difference, and that the Government’s ‘Levelling Up’ agenda bares fruit for the town

“A big thing for us is that we have to make the most of levelling up and make sure places like Keighley are not forgotten.

“Most people want to have a job but there can be a lot of obstacles for them, especially those with physical and mental health issues, so we need an accessible approach to that.

“People need more support with energy prices rising, people have to choose between heating and eating. People feel like bad parents when their young children say they are freezing but they cannot afford to heat their home.

“One family we deal with go to their neighbours’ as much as possible because they can afford to have the heating on, it’s not right people are unable to be in their own home.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: People can get food, a hot drink and advice and help from the food bankPeople can get food, a hot drink and advice and help from the food bank

“They have no wriggle room. They can just about get by but if something unexpected happens people have to make painful decisions and once you’re down there it’s really hard to get back up.”

David Longstaff has been volunteering at the food bank for almost a decade, and remembers the early days, before a referral system came into force.

“Having 100 people here was commonplace back then,” he said, “now with referrals its usually 20 to 40 people each day.

“I’ve not seen a big rise in people coming to us yet, but this used to be Keighley’s only food bank and now there are a few so the numbers may be spread out.

“The cost of living is a big issue people come in with; bills going up are having a knock on effect, and petrol prices rising is another thing now.

“We shouldn’t need food banks. We need a proper living wage but who judges what that should be?

“The Government need to look at it and think, does it cover the cost of living? But I can’t see that happening any time soon.”

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: A number of food banks have popped up in Keighley to meet growing demand for help with the basicsA number of food banks have popped up in Keighley to meet growing demand for help with the basics

One man, who is unable to work due to a back injury, is a regular client and said he doesn’t know how he would cope without the food bank’s help.

The 55-year-old, who asked not to be named, said: “I’m in a bit of debt and after paying that off I don’t have enough money for food.

“This place is really a godsend; I cannot rate them highly enough for what they do. I don’t know where I’d be without them.

“I’m grateful for what I get but it would help if benefits could go up a bit, it doesn’t go far these days.

“It’s hard for the Government but I can’t see it going up soon.

“I’m long-term disabled, I have back and shoulder injuries. It depresses me, I’d love to work, I used to be a landscape gardener and I loved that.”

Another lady picking up parcels added: “For people like us, on benefits, this place is an absolute lifeline, these people are angels.

“My bills have almost trebled and that’s before April hits. Where’s the money meant to come from when benefits are not going up too?”