Norfolk foodbank defies national figures but warns of future demand

Picture: David Jones/PA Wire

Picture: David Jones/PA Wire - Credit: PA

A foodbank operating across mid-Norfolk has defied national figures by seeing a decrease in use but they fear the good news could be short lived due to changes to the benefits system.

Project Manager Dave Pearson with team of volunteers. Picture: Mid-Norfolk foodbank

Project Manager Dave Pearson with team of volunteers. Picture: Mid-Norfolk foodbank - Credit: Archant

Data released by the mid-Norfolk food bank shows that demand between April 1, 2017 and March 31, 2018 was 7pc lower than the previous year, with 2,088 people fed over the past 12 months including 724 children.

The data goes against the national average where there has been a 13pc increase, according to figures released on Tuesday by the Trussell Trust.

'The reasons for foodbank use here generally follow the national pattern,' said a spokesperson for the Mid-Norfolk Foodbank, which covers Dereham, Fakenham and Swaffham.

'Low income accounts for 34pc of our referrals, benefit problems a further 41pc, so a combined 75pc of our referrals fall into one of these two categories.'

The team at the foodbank warn that despite the good news, they expect to see demand grow as the government's new benefits system, known as Universal Credit, is rolled out.

'Reports we've heard from foodbanks where implementation has taken place give us cause for concern,' the spokesperson continued.

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'We're in contact with other foodbanks in the area so we do have the opportunity to share best practice and learn from those whose areas are further ahead in the process.'

Universal Credit replaces six benefits with a single monthly payment and it is being introduced gradually across the country. It is expected to roll out in Dereham in June and in Fakenham in December.

While Theresa May has insisted the system is working, it has faced a widespread criticism since its introduction. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has urged Mrs May to halt the roll out, stating that the government needs to review and address the problems.

The Trussell Trust said last year that foodbanks in areas where Universal Credit has been fully implemented have seen a 16.8pc increase in referrals, more than double the national average of 6.6pc.

In the past 12 months the Mid-Norfolk Foodbank has given out more food than they received indicating that an increase in demand will increase their need for donations.

The foodbank will be holding a Tesco collection in Dereham on June 29 between 9am and 5pm. Volunteers will be distributing lists of food that they need and they will be asking shoppers to select one or more items to include in their shop.