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Hard-pressed families turn to food banks

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: January 03, 2014

By Tristan Cork

Comments (3)

tristan.cork@b-nm.co.uk

The number of people relying on emergency food banks in the West is doubling every year – as a new survey reveals even the 'squeezed middle' fear they will not be able to pay their mortgages at the end of January.

The new year will be a tough one financially for millions, warned housing charity Shelter yesterday, as new research from a YouGov poll revealed one in eight householders in the West will struggle to pay the bills at the end of this month, after a Christmas splurge.

Shelter are warning of an 'ostrich effect' of cash-strapped householders not even opening the bills, with as many as one in nine of us putting unopened bills straight in the bin to avoid dealing with it.

"We're now seeing a stream of cases of families who've been unable to cope with mounting rent or mortgage bills and feel at breaking point," said Liz Clare, a helpline adviser at Shelter.

"We all know how difficult it can be to face up to financial problems and we often hear from people who've been avoiding urgent post, but the reality is that not confronting it means things can spiral out of control.

"One caller to the helpline arrived home to her rented flat to find the locks had been changed.

"She hadn't realised that a court hearing had even taken place because she hadn't felt able to open her post after falling into arrears with her rent.

"We hear from people every day who are struggling, so you are not alone.

"Our message to anyone struggling to pay their rent or mortgage is that we're on your side. Come to us for help early on for the best chance of keeping your home," she added.

The new survey revealed that 43 per cent of households in the West are expecting to struggle to find the money to pay the mortgage or rent, as housing costs rise, and energy bills also outstrip any pay rises.

Campbell Robb, the chief executive of Shelter, said: "It's a worrying sign of the times that so many of us are starting the new year worried about how they'll pay their rent or mortgage in 2014.

"Unless they get help, some of the families struggling now could face the very real prospect of losing their home this year.

"Despite recent discussion of an economic recovery, we know that a combination of high housing costs, wage freezes, and rising food and energy bills has created a nightmare scenario for many families that's pushing them to breaking point," he added.

Increasing numbers of people across the region are having to turn to food banks to feed their families, with the emergency stations now springing up in some of the most apparently affluent areas of the region.

The Trussell Trust food bank in Gloucester's Great Western Road reported the numbers of people being referred to them had almost doubled from 2,861 in 2012 to more than 4,100 last year.

The numbers have increased despite the fact that since it opened originally in 2005, other food banks have been set up elsewhere in the county in Tewkesbury and the Forest of Dean.

Acting manager Lizzie Manley said the demand has been unreal, and although they have managed to stay on top of things thanks to generous donations, they are in dire need of volunteers and cash donations.

She said: "People have been fantastic with donations and our store is jammed full, which is fabulous.

"However, we need 12 volunteers to run the food bank and at the moment we are scraping by with just six a day."

Around 90 agencies in Gloucester have the responsibility of referring people in need to the food bank.

The food bank then gives out enough food for three meals a day for three days, per family member. People can only use the Foodbank three times in each six months so they don't become dependent on its services.

"We need people to help stock the food, help rotate it, and to help at our supermarket collection days," said Mrs Manley.

Even in the normally affluent Cotswolds, food banks are being set up – with a public meeting being held in Malmesbury in a fortnight to discuss setting one up in the Wiltshire town.

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3 comments

  • redfrome  |  January 03 2014, 7:13PM

    Disabled people are twice as likely to live in poverty as non-disabled people. A third of all disabled adults live in low-income households. This situation has been constant for at least the past ten years. Recent changes to the benefit system, particularly the introduction of the bedroom tax, have hit disabled people hardest. With regard to multidimensional poverty, it is widely recognised that disabled people face hardship in their daily lives. Not only does this include financial hardship, but high unemployment, social exclusion and negative social attitudes. Poverty of opportunity and poverty of expectation have resulted in a lack of individual aspiration in many disabled people. However, inequality can be addressed and lives can be improved. While little significance can be attached to year-to-year movements, the low-income rate for disabled working-age adults is similar to a decade ago, but somewhat higher than in the mid 1990s. A disabled adult's risk of being in low income is much greater than that of a non-disabled adult for all family types, by at least 10 percentage in each case. Except for lone parents (where the non-disabled rate is already very high), this means a roughly doubled risk for a disabled adult. The main reason that disabled working-age adults are more likely to be in low-income households is because they are less likely to be in work (see the indicator on work and disability) rather than because they are more likely to be in low income if not in work . This is illustrated by the fact that disabled adults in workless families are actually somewhat less likely to be in low income than their non-disabled counterparts. The proportion of economically inactive working age adults who are in relative low income is higher in the UK than in any other EU country. Many of these people will be disabled. One in four people aged 45 to 64 are affected by impairment and long-term sickness, but it is twice as common among the poorest fifth of the population. Around 800,000 disabled people between 25 and retirement age are classed as 'economically inactive, but wanting work'. This compares with only 200,000 who are officially counted as 'unemployed'. For any given level of educational qualification, a disabled person is around three times as likely to lack but want work as non-disabled people. The rate among disabled graduates (14 per cent) is higher than that for non-disabled adults with no qualifications at all. Disability increases the chances of low pay for those people who are in work. This applies at every level of qualification and irrespective of gender or whether jobs are full- or part-time.

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  • disabledby  |  January 03 2014, 5:31PM

    People who have not been in debt before are now finding that they are because they are having to pay a proportion of rent or council tax and some are also being hit by the bedroom tax and are trapped in their current homes, because this legislation was introduced without adequate provision being made for enough smaller properties to be available. The result is a huge rise in the number of people chasing an already woefully inadequate supply of one-bedroomed properties and making it very difficult for homeless people to find anywhere to live. Those who are stuck in what is now considered to be a too-large property are often having to go without food in order to keep a roof over their heads whilst they try to move. Disabled people have been particularly disadvantaged under changes to benefits and now the bedroom tax. That such a law could be implemented with no proper thought about whether disabled people might be particularly adversely affected is appalling.Equipment needs to be stored and sometimes people need their own space for reasons of health and safety or the disruptive effects of treatment. Although there is some financial provision which can be used to alleviate poverty in these cur***stances, it is not being made available consistently and has to be re-applied for , which should be unnecessary when needs have not changed and provision to meet them should have been enshrined in the law. There has been insufficient action taken in respect of employers failing to pay at least the minimum wage. Surely if someone works a full week, then they should not need to be subsidised through benefits and should receive a living wage. Don Foster spoke on local radio before Christmas and seems to think that the need for people to turn to the food bank is just an unfortunate consequence of the policies necessary for the reported upturn in the economy. I hope that those who had enough money to enjoy Christmas festivities were suitably grateful to those who have paid for their good fortune by being hungry and desperate and who, I am sure, had very different feelings about how acceptable the consequences of how the economy has been managed are.Being dehumanised and told, with a shrug of the shoulders, that one is just part of economic collateral damage is utterly appalling.

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  • redfrome  |  January 03 2014, 3:33PM

    My heart goes out to these people. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation has found that almost 13 million Britons are now living in poverty, having suffered a "sustained" and "unprecedented" fall in their living standards. Their report found that job insecurity is common for millions of people, with one in six of the workforce claiming Jobseekers' Allowance at some point in the last two years. There have also been big shifts in terms of the groups that are experiencing poverty. The largest group in poverty are working age adults without dependent children – 4.7 million people are in this situation, the highest on record. Hard work is not working. We have a labour market that lacks pay and protection, with jobs offering precious little security and paltry wages that are insufficient to make ends meet. Families are struggling with an "unprecedented" squeeze on their living standards amid high costs and flat lining wages. When the Coalition took power, GDP growth was at 3.25% for the last two quarters of the Labour Government. Now, the ToryLibDems seem to think they can celebrate it just reaching only 2.5%, after three years of office! Prices have gone up faster than wages in 39 of the 40 months since May 2010 when the Coalition took over. And it's not just the poorest who are being hit by the cost of living, we all are.

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