'Tip of iceberg' fear as number helped by Hartlepool food bank tops 3,500
More than 3,500 people needing support from one Hartlepool food bank this year is just the “tip of an iceberg”, according to council officers.
The figures came as part of an investigation into child poverty in Hartlepool being carried out by the borough council’s audit and governance committee.
The committee’s latest meeting heard from a representative of the Trussell Trust Foodbank in the town, who said they have processed 1,887 vouchers to date this year.
This equates to feeding 3,557 people, which was made up of 2,447 adults and 1,110 children.
Lisa Lavender, Trussell Trust Foodbank co-ordinator in Hartlepool, said: “There’s not really now a typical food bank user.
“The top three reasons for people coming to us are benefit changes and delays, debt and low income.
“[When] the Trussell Trust set up its first foodbank, it was meant to be for a crisis situation, but now we find ourselves supporting the benefits system.”
She added those who received the vouchers can be broken down into 218 couples, 160 families and 1,098 single people, while there were 337 single parents.
She noted they are also fighting for change and trying to make a difference to the bigger picture, and taking part in collaborative working across Hartlepool.
Penny Thompson, council head of housing, hardship and welfare services, said the figures were the “tip of an iceberg of a huge number of people being helped”.
She added they also work with many other organisations which provide food and support in Hartlepool, adding: “The benefits system is not providing the safety net that arguably it is supposed to provide.
“Because of that the financial hardship for many people in the town is endless.
“It is not unusual for us to be meeting people who are living on £12 a week and I’m not saying that to be alarmist.”
She continued that the level of support work being carried out in the town is good although they need to continue to build on it.
The committee heard recent work as part of the investigation has included speaking with eight residents impacted by poverty, who raised issues with benefits, accessing the right levels of housing and the need for education.
A final report from the committee on the child poverty investigation is set to be drawn up in January 2022.