Bill price hikes and benefits cuts are too much at once, says charity

Adrian Williams

Adrian Williams

A foodbank is expecting to see a rise in use as families face increases in the cost of living over the coming months.

The energy price cap is set to rise by £139 a year (12 per cent) to £1,277 a year for a typical gas and electricity customer, starting from October 1 – and soaring gas prices have led to fears bills could go up even more in future.

It comes as the £20-a-week uplift to Universal Credit, introduced in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, is set to end from the end of this month.

Maidenhead Foodshare expects this to have a knock-on effect on less well-off families in the borough, and said it is ‘gearing up’ to support more people.

“The problem is that it’s all coming at once, all the price hikes and cuts, all in one go,” said trustee Debbie Gee.

“There’s no question that when they reduce the amount of benefits people get, the number of people using food vouchers increases.”

Lately, fewer people have been coming through the door of Maidenhead Foodshare, as people have picked up new jobs or transitioned out of furlough. Debbie expects this to change soon.

“When you need to heat the house for children, something else has to go. Often families reduce the amount of food they eat,” said Debbie.

“When bills go up, people also make poor choices with food, like buying more snack foods, which are cheap, and less fruits and vegetables.”

Foodshare is therefore focused on trying to get healthy food to people who are struggling.

“It’s very easy to get hold of food vouchers – you can talk to any of the services,” said Debbie.

“Housing Solutions, the doctor, support workers, the town hall – any of them.

“Or you can always come to us and we can help direct people to the right places.

“We’d like to be able to reach those people who only need support for a very short time as well, maybe just a one-off,” she added.

A Government spokeswoman said: “Schemes including the Energy Price Cap, the Warm Home Discount, Winter Fuel Payments and Cold Weather Payments will remain in place to protect millions of people from the sudden increases in global gas prices.

She added: “The uplift to Universal Credit was always a temporary measure to help claimants through the toughest stages of the pandemic – it’s right that as the economy rebounds, we should focus on supporting people back into work and helping those already employed through our £352bn Plan for Jobs.”

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