Rise in number of soup kitchens shows many North-East families are on the breadline (From Darlington and Stockton Times)
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Rise in number of soup kitchens shows many North-East families are on the breadline
THE NORTH-EAST has seen an explosion in demand for soup kitchens and food banks from desperate families living on the breadline.
On the day Chancellor George Osborne revealed another £10bn in welfare cuts, a survey by The Northern Echo revealed a growing crisis among families who cannot afford to eat.
Even affluent areas, such as Durham City and William Hague’s Richmond constituency, in North Yorkshire, have opened food banks.
When the benefits system fails, charities and church groups have been forced to step in to help families put food on the table.
And, with Christmas just around the corner, the Salvation Army said it expects demand for food parcels to soar by up to 50 per cent.
Officials say changes to the benefits system, delays in payments and refusal of crisis loans has led to a surge in people desperate for a decent meal.
Jobseekers who fail to apply for work can have their payments cut or even stopped.
When that happens, voluntary charities and church groups become a backstop to the benefits system.
Pastor Ben Dowding, of the Influence Church, in Victoria Road, Richmond, has watched the demand for food parcels grow in the past few years.
Next month will see the launch of StoreHouse – a scheme to provide food for people in need.
As well as providing emergency handouts, the church is also looking to address the long-term problems.
Mr Dowding said: “Store- House aims to give people basic emergency food supplies over an eight-week period, but also look into why they need it and work with agencies in the area to help them combat debt or unemployment.”
On a larger scale, the Trussell Trust, a charitable organisation which fed 128,687 people in 2011-12, is opening food banks at the rate of three a week.
Centres are operating in Middlesbrough, Durham, Billingham, Sunderland and Newcastle.
Richmond’s Mayor, Councillor Stuart Parsons, who supports the scheme, said he was seeing more people asking for help with housing, fuel or food costs.
“Richmond appears to be an affluent town, and of course, in places it is, but people need to realise there is another side to it and there are lots of people struggling,” he said.
“The main problem is with the changes to benefits, because suddenly people are getting about £100 less a month, which is a lot of money if you are living on a tight budget.”
StoreHouse, which launches next month, is being supported by local churches, schools and organisations.
Coun Parsons said: “There’s another side to Richmondshire – it is very sad, but we will get it sorted because we have to.”
Dennis Ramsey, interim manager of Hambleton and Richmondshire Citizens Advice Bureau, said: “We have had about 30 cases since April of people we would have referred to a food bank if there was one in the area.
“And cases of people coming to us with debt problems in the area are up by 40 per cent. I was surprised it was so high. It is definitely good news to hear about this food bank because it is needed.”
For more information or to donate, visit influence church.co.uk/storehouse or call 01748-823161.
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