Warning from Chingford church pastor after big rise in families needing handouts, reports James Cracknell
The number of children given food parcels by a Chingford foodbank has more than doubled in the last year.
South Chingford Congregational Church revealed there had been a significant increase in the number of families being referred to their foodbank because they were struggling to find the money to buy food.
It reported that a total of 667 people received food parcels from the church in the last year, including 294 children. While the number of referrals had risen by 25 percent, far more large families were being affected by financial problems locally – resulting in a doubling of the number of children using foodbanks.
Reverend Dave Simms, church pastor, said: “Since the foodbank opened in 2013, we have seen a dramatic rise in demand each year. This year it has been particularly poignant to witness schoolchildren once again donating items, considering the heart-breaking number of local children who have been supported by the foodbank in the last year.
“The number of families in our local community who cannot afford to eat is deeply worrying, and sadly we expect this number to rise further in the coming year.”
The figures, for the year up to September 2018, also revealed that more than half of referrals had been made because of problems with benefit payments. Domestic violence was said to be a factor in ten percent of referrals, while another ten percent of people had been given foodbank tokens by medical professionals. Forty percent of referrals were made by Waltham Forest Council.
Unemployment was listed as a reason for referral to the foodbank in one-in-five cases, suggesting most people were struggling to buy food despite having a job.
Rev Simms added: “We see it as our duty and our privilege to help meet people’s immediate needs in times of crisis, but the figures are alarming and action must be taken to address the root causes and long-term solutions for the issues we are seeing.”
The Chingford foodbank was established by local charity Eat or Heat four years ago. It has also warned that Universal Credit (UC), a controversial new all-in-one benefits system, could further increase demand for food aid. Currently, less than two thousand households in the borough are claiming UC, but this is expected to rise significantly next year.
Chingford MP Iain Duncan Smith, in his former job as Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, first announced UC eight years ago and is regarded as its ‘architect’. The policy has been dogged by delays, however, and became the centre of a political row last month when Mr Duncan Smith’s successor at the Department for Work and Pensions, Esther McVey, admitted UC could make families up to £2,400-a-year worse off.