Universal Credit blamed for rise in people needing help at Hartlepool foodbank
The number of people requiring help at a Hartlepool foodbank has surged upwards by nearly a fifth.
Hartlepool Foodbank, based in the town's Church Street, provided 4,913 clients with food parcels during 2018.
This is a rise of almost 18.5% compared to the 4,148 people helped during 2017.
The number of meals served by the foodbank, part of the nationwide Trussell Trust network of foodbanks, has also increased by a similar margin over the same period from 37,332 to 44,217.
One of nine foodbanks and community kitchens across town, it predates the roll out of Universal Credit in Hartlepool and only helps clients who have received a voucher referral from organisations such as Citizens Advice and children's centres.
But co-ordinator Abi Knowles said: "What we do has probably doubled since the start of Universal Credit.
"Whereas we used to be dealing with 20 vouchers a day, now it can be as many as 55 over a two-hour period."
Ms Knowles would like to see the lead-in time for the first Universal Credit payment - a minimum of five weeks - reduced and the monthly payment system altered.
She said: "A month is a long period of time when you are used to getting paid regularly from each benefit.
"You have people who do not know how to budget properly and people who turn to families for help while they are waiting for the next payment.
"That in itself can generate more stress. You can see it on people's faces during the school holidays when they bring their families here."
A DWP spokesperson said: “The reasons for people using foodbanks 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."
Staffed by 50 volunteers on a rota basis, donations can be left to the rear of the Hartlepool Foodbank premises at 28 Church Street between 11.30am-1.30pm on Tuesdays and Fridays.
Tinned fish and long life juices are among the items it currently needs.
Further information about volunteering is available at firstname.lastname@example.org and on (01429) 598404.