Nine food banks and community kitchens now operating to feed Hartlepool's hungry - town's MP slams situation as '˜blight on the Government and what they do'

The explosion of food banks and community kitchens in Hartlepool has been described as a '˜blight' on the Government by the town's MP.

Friday, 21st December 2018, 5:00 am
Updated Friday, 21st December 2018, 7:03 am
Food items stored at the Foodbank Church Street.

Nine charities and community projects have been formed in town since 2010 to help people who have fallen on hard times get enough to eat.

Hartlepool MP Mike Hill praised the people who run such projects.

Hartlepool MP Mike Hill with food bank coordinator Abi Knowles on a visit to the charity in Church Street.

But he said the fact they exist is a damning indictment on the Government.

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Problems linked to the roll out of Universal Credit, which replaces a number of benefits, has been linked to people’s dependance on food charities.

A report on the national BBC news featured people who have experienced delays and sanctions attending Hartlepool’s St Aidan’s Church’s food kitchen which provides a meal to around 120 people every Thursday.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) defended Universal Credit and said people use food banks for many reasons.

The food kitchen held in St Aidans Church. Picture by Frank Reid

Mr Hill said: “There are nine food banks in Hartlepool, all staffed by wonderful volunteers, but quite frankly they shouldn’t exist in the first place.

“It’s a blight on this Government that they do.

“The people you saw in the programme are not down and outs.

“They are decent people who have hit times of need.”

On Wednesday, Mr Hill told the House of Commons how Hartlepool Foodbank has given out more than 27,000 meals in the last 11 months.

He said: “That just shows the situation many people have found themselves in as a result of the pilot scheme with Universal Credit.”

Manager Abi Knowles said they see people who are working and on Universal Credit who are struggling as well as unemployed people including those who have made claims or are applying for the benefit.

She said: “Probably 99% of people we see have some issue somewhere along the line with Universal Credit.

“After deductions are made for things like previous hardship payments it is so low they are making the choice of eating or paying bills.”

Mr Hill said since the report aired his office has received offers of help from constituents for the people featured.

A DWP spokesperson said: “The reasons for people using food banks are complex, and it would be wrong to link a rise to any one cause.

“With Universal Credit people are moving into work faster and staying in work longer than under the old system.

“It provides additional, tailored support to help people move into work and stop claiming benefits altogether.

“No one should have to face hardship with Universal Credit and we have made 100% advances available from day one.”