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Food bank users increase across Cumbria partly due to benefit changes

Photo: PA

A food bank in Kendal say they've experienced a 40% increase in the number of referrals given to people to visit their facility, since the beginning of the year.

King's Food Bank say a number of the people they see say they are no longer able to afford to buy food for themselves because of a change in their benefits, which may lead to a 6-week gap when they do not receive any monetary support.

Linda Sutherland, King's Food Bank Manager Credit: ITV Border

The main reason certainly in May was connected with the benefits system in one way or another. It can be the break between receiving one benefit and moving on to Universal Credit, and the service users then have no money for six weeks, which causes them lots of problems.

– Linda Sutherland, Manager, King's Food Bank

The Department of Work and Pensions says they can offer interim support on a case by case basis.

Department of Work & Pensions statement Credit: ITV Border

Universal Credit is designed to mirror the world of work and the vast majority of claimants are confident in managing their money. But for those who need extra support, we provide a strong safety net through the welfare system, including hardship payments, benefit advances and budgeting loans.

– Department of Work and Pensions Spokesperson
387
people referred to King's Food Bank since January 2017

Other issues such as debt, addiction, statutory sick pay, relationships, social services and health problems have also been linked to the increase in food bank users.

King's Food Bank in Kendal, Cumbria, have seen a 40% increase in referrals so far this year Credit: ITV Border

More people get referred to food banks by agencies such as Citizens Advice.

Volunteers at King's Food Bank say they are happy to help, but are concerned that the increase is reflecting an ongoing issue in society.

275
people referred to King's Food Bank since January to June 2016
Alastair Sutherland, King's Food Bank Volunteer Credit: ITV Border

We shouldn't be here, we shouldn't have to have a food bank in this seemingly affluent society. But we're here, and we are very grateful to all the people who donate food.

– Alastair Sutherland, Volunteer, King's Food Bank

A number of agencies offer referrals to food banks around the region including: