SWINDON Food Bank volunteers say by the end of the year,they would have helped over 5,000 people in the town and warned the new benefit change could see that number increase further.
The changes, which came into force on Monday, sees the limit on the total amount of benefits a household can receive fall from £26,000 to £20,000.
Some families will be left out of pocket by £100 a week as a result, which foodbank organisers The Trussell Trust believe will add to the 519,342 food parcels handed out across the country this year, the most its 12-year history.
Cher Smith, manager at Swindon Food Bank said the picture is the same in the town and volunteers are bracing themselves for a possible increase in requests for food parcels once the full impact of the changes take shape.
“If we carry on at this level, we will probably exceed last year’s figures of around 4,500 and we will probably hit 5,000 by the end of the year.
“We are in winter now and people are having to make the choice to buy fuel or food and the now the benefit changes have come in, these people have less money.
“What strikes me is how desperate people are in needing help but don’t realise or don’t ask.
“I was doing a talk at a primary school recently and asked the children if they felt like they didn’t have enough food at home or if mum or dad didn’t eat so they could.
“I said to them ‘if that is the case, go home and tell your parents to go to a foodbank’ and by the end of that week, we had families coming in from the school to ask for help, so the message is getting out there.”
Up until the end of October, the food bank in Whitbourne Avenue had helped 2,310 adults and 1,421 children and the team still need tinned and cupboard items to see families through the winter months.
But this week, the Trussell Trust has said benefit delays and benefit changes can be blamed for the rise in requests nationally and believe a hotline to each foodbank’s nearest Job Centre Plus could be a solution.
Cher is cautiously welcoming the proposal but is concerned that it might not help everyone most in need in the town.
She added: “There is never a right time of the year to introduce these benefit changes but it would have been better timed in spring when fuel costs aren’t so high for the winter.
“There’s pros and cons but what is clear is that there are people out there living in fuel poverty and that is what we are looking into with the Trussell Trust.
“The idea of a hotline could work if it is similar to the Shelter one but it must not only help people who don’t know about the food bank but also those in desperate need.”