‘Crisis situation’ – Rising debts and living costs forcing full-time workers in Hartlepool to rely on foodbank handouts

Al Wales (left) and Ali Lee restocking the Hartlepool Foodbank
Al Wales (left) and Ali Lee restocking the Hartlepool Foodbank

DESPERATE residents in full-time work are relying on foodbank handouts to feed their families due to rising debts and the cost of living.

Working families are left with no choice but to turn to the foodbank for handouts after their hard-earned cash is all spent on bills and fuel, leaving them penniless and unable to put food on the table.

Hartlepool Foodbank bosses said they “often” have families referred to the service where both parents are in work but still find themselves in financial difficulties due to the harsh reality of “the rising cost of living” while wages remain static.

Al Wales, Hartlepool Foodbank coordinator, said: “It’s not rare for us to hand out food to families who are working and earning a wage but simply can’t afford to put food on the table.

“With the rising cost of food and bills, people are left with no buffer.

“If they get a big bill or have to pay out for something that hasn’t been planned for it leaves families with absolutely nothing.

“So many families in the town are living hand to mouth even though they work full time.”

Al said cases of working families turning to foodbanks is on the rise across the UK.

And the system in place, which requires hard-up residents to get referred to the foodbank, will soon be altered slightly so bosses will be able to record exactly how many vouchers are handed out to those in work.

“Foodbanks are for anybody in a crisis situation,” explained Al.

“It doesn’t have to be for people who are on benefits.

“More and more families where parents are working are finding their way to us and the same is happening up and down the country.

“It’s a reflection of the steep rising costs of living while wages are remaining static.”

Hartlepool Foodbank, based in Church Street, has handed out food to 6,347 people, which includes 2,058 children since it opened its doors in December 2012.

Al said the charity has supported around 2,000 households in the town in that time and advised those in need to go to Hartlepool Civic Centre, which works closely with several agencies who have vouchers for the foodbank and refer residents to the service.

The foodbank is led by Hartlepool Churches Together and the Trussell Trust charity.

The Mail launched the We Can Do It campaign after worrying statistics revealed that 28.6 per cent of children in Hartlepool are living in poverty.

Generous residents responded to the campaign in style, donating around four and a half tonnes of food in a matter of weeks, allowing the foodbank to open shortly afterwards.

But bosses are always on the lookout for even more donations to ensure stocks remain high in the foodbank.

In January this year the service helped 448 people including 145 children during its busiest ever month.

And around half a tonne of food continues to go out of the door every week.

Donations can be left at the foodbank, which opens every Tuesday and Friday at 11.30am-1.30pm.

The service’s dedicated volunteers will also be at Tesco Extra, in Burn Road, throughout the day next Thursday collecting food donations.

Food can also be dropped off any time at the Tesco store and at Asda supermarket, in Marina Way.