A FOOD bank is warning that more people will be left unable to afford essential supplies when Universal Credit is cut by £20 a week in October.

Joe Walker, manager at Whitehawk foodbank, said people using the service have told him they do not know how they will cope with the upcoming cut when they are already struggling to feed themselves.

He said: We’ve had conversations with people who are really worried.

“People have said they’re already struggling – it’s anxiety-inducing for people.

"This is on-top of steady increases in need at the food bank for years.”

The Government is planning to phase out a £20 a week increase, introduced as a temporary measure during the coronavirus pandemic, from the end of September.

Politicians, charities and think tanks have warned this will hit the poorest families the hardest and have called for it to remain in place.

Whitehawk Foodbank, part of anti-poverty charity the Trussell Trust’s network, gave out on average 60 food parcels a week before Covid-19 hit – but this rose to 130 a week during the start of the pandemic.

The Argus: The Government is planning to phase out a £20 a week increase in Universal CreditThe Government is planning to phase out a £20 a week increase in Universal Credit

The food bank is currently giving out as many as 90 food parcels a week.

Mr Walker said: “We want to reduce the number of parcels we provide to people in crisis because emergency food is not the answer.

“People should have enough money to get by. But this cut is going to drive numbers up yet further.

“I am very concerned for all the community support services – the doctors, local finance and debt advisors, social services will all have to work flat out to make sure everyone can survive.”

Mr Walker says people have “lost faith in the social security system” with many telling him they were scared to question their benefit entitlement in case they had money taken away from them.

He said: “I spoke to someone recently who had fled domestic violence into temporary accommodation with no access to money.

“They needed support as they had nothing and would have to wait five weeks for their first payment.

“Social security should be strong enough for all of us to rely on when we need a lifeline – because, as the pandemic has shown us, life is full of things we can’t plan for.”

The Argus: Joe Walker, manager at Whitehawk foodbank Joe Walker, manager at Whitehawk foodbank

Joe is urging people to support the national Keep the Lifeline campaign and write to their local MP calling for the government to reverse this cut.

Garry Lemon, Director of Policy and Research at the Trussell Trust, said: “Millions of people could be forced to turn to food banks as the UK government plans to cut Universal Credit payments by £20 a week this October.

“Cutting this lifeline will be a devastating blow for millions of households already struggling to make ends meet. It would be wrong of the government to take away £20 a week from already precarious incomes and push even more people through the doors of food banks.

“But it doesn’t have to be like this. The answer must be to ensure our social security system provides people with enough money to cover the essentials. At the very least we’re saying this October, the government must choose to protect people and choose to keep the lifeline."

A government spokesman said the temporary Universal Credit uplift was only brought in to support those with the lowest incomes during the pandemic.

He added: “Now that restrictions are ending it is right that the government should focus its support – through our multi-billion-pound plan for jobs – to help people learn new skills to progress in their career, increase their hours or find new work.”

Have you got a story for us? Email news@theargus.co.uk or contact us here.

Follow us on FacebookTwitter and Instagram to keep up with all the latest news.

Sign up to our newsletter to get updates sent straight to your inbox.

You can also call us on 01273 021 400.