Southend foodbank warns of cost of living "crisis"
By Christy O'Brien in www.echo-news.co.uk
More people in Southend will be forced to use foodbanks unless the government offers more support to residents, a leading foodbank in the area has warned.
Southend Foodbank said the current rate of inflation and soaring energy bills were creating a cost of living "crisis." While the warmer weather will help many get by over the coming months another hard winter could be in store for many. They made the calls after the chancellor Rishi Sunak announced reduction in fuel duty, meaning a litre of diesel or unleaded now costs 5p less than previously, and the promise to make a cut in income tax from 20per cent to 19per cent by 2024. Other important elements included an increase in funding for councils to support vulnerable households, and the increase in the National Insurance threshold.
Cass Francis, Media and Campaigns Coordinator at the foodbank located on 484 South church Road, said there had already been a 42% increase in the number using their services between January 2021 and the same month in 2022. It is a figure that will continue to increase, she argues, unless the government pledged more support. She said: "Already people that are suffering are not going to be able to tolerate a 3.1% increase. It's another cut to universal credit in real terms. In an ideal world the £20 universal credit uplift would come back. It may seem bright at the moment but it's been a really hard winter for people. Come October when the food prices go up again it's a perfect storm. The government absolutely need to pull out the stops a bit more."
She added: "I have received more calls from people who have never used foodbanks before, working families who don't know what else to do. It's not just people who are unemployed that come to us, it is everybody." While people on benefits are more likely to use the foodbanks services, and could be working anyway, Ms Francis, 52, warned anybody could be hit by the dramatic increases in energy prices which may not be fully felt until later this year. "People who never dreamed about it are going to be thinking about it. The majority of the people we see are housed. Honestly, I think there is a stigma about people who need to use foodbanks, that you have caused yourself to be in this position. We are happy to serve but we wish that we didn't have to."