Impact on hunger: school holidays and Universal Credit

By Matt Dobson, North Bristol Foodbank

In North Bristol the challenge of supporting and meeting needs of food poverty continues to increase. The reality of holiday hunger over the summer has been seen in all our foodbank outlets as well as the arrival of Universal Credit.

311 children were provided food by North Bristol Foodbank during the holiday time (July-August). This was a 30% increase from the previous 2 months (May-June). This summer holiday time also saw a 6% increase from the same period in 2017.

North Bristol Foodbank are looking strategically with other organisations around the city, under ‘Feeding Bristol’, to how we respond during holiday periods when families do not receive free school meals.

In June, Universal Credit was rolled out to some areas of Lockleaze and we have already seen people struggling with the new system. I met one of our foodbank clients who was very distressed. He was struggling to apply for Universal Credit through the new online platform. He said this was affecting his mental health as he regularly battles with anxiety and depression. For him having to travel to the city centre to receive help with the Universal Credit application was too much for him both physically and mentally, let alone the cost of bus travel which he could not afford.

Universal Credit is the biggest change to the welfare system in a generation and the Trussell Trust network of foodbanks have been working hard to monitor it. Research has found that the system is leaving people behind – disabled people, families, and other vulnerable groups – and can push people in to debt. Analysing data from the foodbank network has found that foodbanks in full Universal Credit roll out areas, for 12 months or more, have seen a 52% increase in need compared to 13% elsewhere. This is unacceptable. We need change now. You can help make this change.

Stewart North, our chair of trustees, told me, “When we started the foodbank six years ago we never anticipated the need to continue to increase and hearing peoples’ stories of struggle is heartbreaking for our volunteers. We are in need of financial support towards new warehouse facilities and other logistical challenges that we face in meeting the demand. However, we are committed, alongside other organisations and churches, to look to the future and to be building Bristol as a city of hope.”

As there is an increase in foodbank usage, and recent Trussell Trust reports show it is likely to increase further, we have announced the opening of a new Foodbank outlet in Patchway. Last year, North Bristol Foodbank provided 395 people in Patchway with emergency food parcels, it’s the 4th largest ward we serve behind Southmead, Lockleaze and Horfield respectively. The opening of this new outlet will allow us to better care for people in crisis both in North Bristol and South Gloucestershire. The outlet will be open at St Chad’s Church, Patchway, on Thursdays between 10 am and 12 pm, from 20th September.