Falkirk Foodbank reassure local community following Universal Credit changes

Picture: Michael Gillen
Picture: Michael Gillen

Over 6000 people received a food parcel from Falkirk Foodbank last year and now, as Universal Credit looms, even more could be knocking at their door.

Since being set up in 2012, Falkirk Foodbank has helped around 1800 children each year and it is expected this number will rise.

Picture: Michael Gillen

Picture: Michael Gillen

Jim Couper, Falkirk Foodbank manager, said: “We’ve been made aware that other places who already have Universal Credit in place have seen a nearly 30 per cent 
increase in the number of people using foodbanks.

“This change will no doubt affect Falkirk families as they re-adjust but we’re prepared and equipped if anyone needs help.”

With one in five people living below the poverty line in the UK, individuals can go hungry every day for a range of reasons, from benefit delays to receiving an unexpected bill while on a low income.

Jim said: “A small change in the benefit system could be enough to put someone in financial disrepair.

“We don’t know what the future holds but as we see a slight increase every year in the number of people using the food bank, we can only 
expect to see more people on our doorstep.

“Families will be affected and demand will increase but we won’t turn away anyone in crisis.”

Universal tax credit has replaced six existing benefits including: job seeker’s allowance, income support, employment and support allowance, working tax credit, child tax credits and housing benefit.

These changes could affect families as they have to change the way they budget accordingly.

However, Falkirk Foodbank aims to make local residents aware they’re ready to offer support when the changes kick in.

Jim said: “Food is regularly donated by schools, churches, businesses and individuals.

“We partner up with local schools during most holidays as we’re aware of the number of children who are at risk of going hungry.

“With help of Falkirk Council social services and the Salvation Army we were able to supply an additional 800 food packs last year during school holidays.

“Without their support, it would be difficult.”

Superstores, such as Tesco, also support the food bank by offering them much-needed supplies every week.

Jim continued: “Last year we also managed to save over four tonnes of excess food from superstore donations as we were able to give the food to local people in need instead of it going to a landfill.”

Supported by The Trussell Trust, Falkirk Foodbank ensures they will continue to serve its vital role in the community.

Jim said: “We deliver around 99 per cent of supplies to help diminish stigma of going to a foodbank.

“Instead of coming to the centre to pick it up, a parcel dropped off at a their door can look just like an Asda or Tesco delivery.”

Although the time limit of how long someone can receive a package is generally six months, Jim is confident they will not turn anyone away:.

He said: “How can you say no to someone, especially if they have children? It’s important that people can rely on us if they fall on hard times.”

The local food bank has been witness to these “hard times” during the spell of bad weather as families are still struggling to get back on their feet.

Whether it was an increased heating or electricity bill, a short term issue can have lasting effects.

Jim continued: “It’s really tragic to know there’s still a need for food banks in this day and age.”

“But we have a huge support system who are fantastic at helping out. We see true community spirit every day.”