Hartlepool foodbank trust now poised to offer financial advice

Clive Hall and Al Wales of the Hartlepool Foodbank.
Clive Hall and Al Wales of the Hartlepool Foodbank.

THE charity which runs a service handing out food parcels to cash-strapped families is poised to offer financial advice in a fresh attempt to help people.

The Trussell Trust, which operates Hartlepool’s foodbank in Church Street, has set up a pilot scheme to give people advice on how to try and make ends meet.

It follows what the charity describes as an “alarming rise” in the number of people coming in for food who have got into further difficulties by taking out high interest payday loans.

There are currently 400 foodbanks operating around the UK, and the pilot scheme is to be trialled in several areas including the North East.

Some 900,000 people received three days’ emergency food from Trussell Trust food banks in the last financial year, an increase of 163 per cent over the previous 12 months.

In Hartlepool, more than half a tonne of food is handed out on a weekly basis, with the outlet open for two hours two days a week.

Last month, at the start of the school holidays, staff revealed they had noticed an increase in the number of people asking for help and a fresh appeal was made to replenish stocks which had fallen low.

The Mail launched our We Can Do It campaign in late 2012 to help boost the foodbank by encouraging donations.

Trussell Trust chief executive David McAuley said: “It’s deeply concerning that the basics of dignified life in modern Britain - food, heat and electricity - can fall out of reach for so many.

“High prices, static incomes, problems with benefits and harsh welfare sanctioning are forcing people into extreme financial difficulty. When you’re facing stark choices between eviction or feeding the family, debt and high- interest loans can seem to offer a short-term solution; the reality is that this often forces finances to spiral out of control.

“By introducing a ‘financial triage’ service in food banks, where clients are able to connect with free financial and debt advice, people will be given professional help to manage tight finances, avoid payday lenders and structure debt to prevent the situation from getting worse and to help people break out of crisis much faster.”

The pilot scheme is due to be launched next month.