Labour blast ‘unacceptable’ rise in foodbank use as charity expects ‘busiest Christmas ever’
Labour has attacked the Government over the "absolutely unacceptable" rise in foodbank reliance after a major network released figures showing they were to face their "busiest Christmas ever".
The Trussell Trust said an overall 13% spike in people seeking supplies in the first six months of this financial year compared to the last suggests demand will be even higher this December.
The charity said three-day emergency supplies went to 146,798 people in the run-up to Christmas 2016 - a 47% increase on the monthly average provided in the last financial year.
They added that the rise in the amount of food donated to them last year rose from 911 tonnes in November, to 2,178 in December, before dipping back down to 860 tonnes in January 2017.
Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Debbie Abrahams said the increased need for charity handouts was a direct result of the Government’s “botched” roll-out of Universal Credit.
Chancellor Philip Hammond used last week’s Budget to reduce the waiting time for the first payment from six to five weeks – however the measures are not expected to be implemented until February next year.
There has been growing pressure on ministers to pause the new system following reports of claimants being forced into debt and poverty while waiting for their initial payment.
“Despite what the Government might think, it is absolutely unacceptable that so many families rely on foodbanks to get through Christmas,” Ms Abrahams said.
“We know that the Tories’ botched Universal Credit roll out, and their freeze to social security are causing people to visit foodbanks to make ends meet.
“The social security system should not increase the need for foodbanks.
“Labour is calling on the Government to pause and fix Universal Credit before Christmas, and lift the harmful social security freeze.”
Interim Chief Executive of the charity Mark Ward said: “For many, this Christmas will not be a time for celebration. Every year we see a spike in demand at Christmas but this year foodbanks are expecting their busiest Christmas ever.
He added: “Last December, the public’s generosity meant foodbanks could help thousands of people across the country.
“But when the festive season is over there will still be people in our communities unable to afford food.
“Foodbanks rely on donations, which is why we’re asking the public to show that same generosity again, not only this December but in the months that follow Christmas too.”