By Hannah Riordan
Figures show that Batley food bank has seen a 50 per cent rise in demand, with volunteers telling Yorkshire Voice that the introduction of the new benefits system, Universal Credit, had an immediate impact.
The Universal Credit system was rolled out to the area in January. It was designed to wrap up six existing benefits which support people on low incomes both in and out of work.
The Labour and Co-Operative MP for Batley and Spen, Tracy Brabin, said: “When demand at Batley Food Bank is up 50 per cent on this time last year, with over 100 adults and over 40 children using their service each week, you cannot tell me that austerity is working.
“For far too many people there is no light at the end of the tunnel.”
There are currently 869 Kirklees Council tenants who claim Universal Credit.
Liz Stanley, a volunteer at Batley food bank told Yorkshire Voice: “Universal Credit had an immediate impact on us at the food bank. Our figures rose and we saw a change in the people that came to us for help.
“When I first began working here, there were a lot of single people who needed short-term help from us whilst they were either between jobs or between housing.
“Now, we are seeing an increased need for baby and toddler products because we are providing for so many families with young children.”
Batley food bank is currently supporting over 27 families, and many may rely on the help of the food bank for the next five to six weeks due to delays in payment.
Sharron Cummings and her two young children relied on the food bank during their wait for a Universal Credit payment.
Their wait was supposed to last five weeks; however due to an issue in the payment process, they waited nine.
Sharron said: “I was so reluctant to contact the food bank mainly because I was embarrassed, I never thought I’d get to this point.
“I couldn’t get help anywhere else, the council can’t do anything, the dole wouldn’t give me an advanced payment so when I finally got to the food bank I was genuinely desperate, I had nothing.
“If I refused to feed my kids, social services would be involved and my children would be taken away, yet somehow when the government do the same it’s fine.”
The introduction of Universal Credit still faces a lot of controversy despite efforts in the recent budget to tackle some of the issues with payment delays.
In the latest budget in Parliament on October 29, the government announced a set of measures worth £1.7 billion per year, including help for claimants transitioning onto the new system.
It also unveiled a £1,000 increase in work allowances for those claiming the benefit.