BY TOBY PORTER
Food handouts are soaring as new figures reveal growing divide in wealth
The number of families desperate enough to ask for charity food handouts has soared in South London, latest figures reveal. And the growing divide between rich and poor in our neighbouring streets has been highlighted by the publication of separate reports which show some boroughs are much wealthier, healthier and happier than others.
Latest statistics show Norwood and Brixton Foodbank is giving food parcels to 36 per cent more families, while Southwark is handling 30 per cent more. And staff say a huge portion of those tipping over into hardship is because of the rollout of new benefit, Universal Credit.
Meanwhile, a survey from accountants PwC and think tank Demos says quality-of-life factors in Wandsworth are improving more than anywhere else in the capital.
Foodbank figures highlight South London poverty gap
The growing poverty crisis South London has been highlighted by a massive surge in the number of people using foodbanks. Families resorting to charity meal handouts because they don’t have enough cash for their basic needs rocketed by 36 per cent in Brixton and Norwood alone, the latest figures show.
And the sharp divide in wealth south of the Thames has also been highlighted by another survey, which shows that on the other side of Cavendish Road in Balham, Wandsworth is the borough with the fastest economic growth in the capital.
Norwood and Brixton Foodbank reported 4,404 people in crisis were given three-day emergency food supplies in the six months up to September 30 – and 1791 went to children. That compares to 3,248 in total who received handouts during the same dates in 2016.
The number of free meals donated to poor families has rocketed by up to 21 per cent in the last year. Staff believe the increase is due to people struggling with continued issues with benefit payments; low wages; and no recourse to public funds. They fear the numbers needing urgent help could surge still further – cold weather and high energy bills regularly leads to a spike in applications.
Norwood and Brixton Foodbank is also concerned about next month’s rollout of full Universal Credit in Lambeth, following evidence the delay of more than six weeks in receiving any benefit is causing huge hardship, rent arrears and mental health issues.
The new figures come six months after foodbanks said they were having to cope with a massive surge in demand because of changes in the benefit system which are taking weeks to implement. The Norwood and Brixton Foodbank, based in Knight’s Hill, West Norwood, is asking the community to help them prepare for their busiest time of year by pick those most helpful to your project donating urgently needed food items.
Elizabeth Maytom, Project Lead for The Norwood and Brixton Foodbank said: “It’s really worrying that we are still seeing an increase in need for emergency food across Lambeth.
“Every week people are referred to us after something unavoidable – like illness, a delayed benefit payment or an unexpected bill – means there’s no money for food.
“It’s only with local people’s help that we’re able to provide vital support when it matters most, and whilst we hope one day there’ll be no need for our work, until that day comes we’ll be working hard to help prevent people going hungry.”
Mark Ward, Interim Chief Executive at The Trussell Trust, said: “We’re seeing soaring demand at foodbanks across the UK. Our network is working hard to stop people going hungry but the simple truth is that even with the enormous generosity of our donors and volunteers, we’re concerned foodbanks could struggle to meet demand this winter if critical changes to benefit delivery aren’t made now.
“People cannot be left for weeks without any income, and when that income does come, it must keep pace with living costs – foodbanks cannot be relied upon to pick up the pieces.
“Without urgent action from policy-makers and even more generous practical support from the public, we don’t know how foodbanks are going to stop families and children going hungry this Christmas.”
The foodbank welcomes any new offers of help with both funding and volunteering.
Individuals, local businesses, and organisations interested in supporting the foodbank’s work can find out more at the website: norwoodbrixton.foodbank.org.uk/give-help