Falkirk foodbank: Volunteers say increase in demand due to Universal Credit was always a possibility

Falkirk Foodbank chairman Alastair Blackstock with volunteers and manager Jim Couper.
Falkirk Foodbank chairman Alastair Blackstock with volunteers and manager Jim Couper.

Falkirk Food Bank volunteers always knew Universal Credit could hit its clients hard and went public with their fears at the start of April this year.

At that time food bank manager Jim Couper said they had been looking at the effect the new benefit had already had elsewhere.

He said: “We’ve been made aware other places who already have Universal Credit in place have seen a nearly 30 per cent increase in the number of people using food banks. “This change will no doubt affect Falkirk families as they re-adjust but we’re prepared and equipped if anyone needs help.”

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

At the time it was forecast these changes could affect families as it forced them to change the way they budget.

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

“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.

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

The local food bank has already been witness to hard times in 2018 during the spell of bad winter weather which brought the area to a standstill in March.

Families were still struggling to get back on their feet after that weather-related setback led to increased bills and other expenses and then were hit with the introduction of Universal Credit on top of that.

Jim said: “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.”