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Breckland councillor calls increased food bank use an ‘absolute disgrace’

PUBLISHED: 11:30 25 April 2017

The mid-Norfolk foodbank has seen an increase of 18% in the last 12 months. Picture: David Jones/PA Wire

The mid-Norfolk foodbank has seen an increase of 18% in the last 12 months. Picture: David Jones/PA Wire

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A well-known councillor has called growing demand for meals at mid-Norfolk’s food bank a disgrace after recent figures show a significant increase since 2016.

Councillor Harry Clarke.Councillor Harry Clarke.

The Trussell Trust’s mid-Norfolk food bank, which provides emergency meals for people in Dereham, Swaffham and Fakenham, saw the number of people using it rise by 18pc in the last 12 months.

Harry Clarke, a Labour councillor on Breckland Council and Dereham town councillor, said: “People forget this is not just food but it’s also many of the basics people need such as toiletries. Everyone ought to be worried about this. It’s an absolute disgrace these food banks need to exist.

“We need to work out why people are struggling. It looks as if it’s happening nationally and there are no assurances coming out from the government.”

Dave Pearson, a trustee for the charity and project manager at the food bank, said that it is primarily the current benefits system that is causing the increase.

“The reasons people come here haven’t changed, the biggest one is always the problems with benefits system, either delays or sanctions which are quite often for very minor things,” he said.

“We also have about 20pc of people on low income that just can’t make ends meet. These are often people on zero hour contracts or low income, they get a bill and they are left with a dilemma of wanting to pay the bill but then having no money for the food.”

While the government’s controversial universal credit scheme has not fully rolled out in mid-norfolk it is starting to be given to a large number of people who are below 25, and this is the same demographic that has grown the most in food bank use.

Mr Pearson said: “The increase is mainly among single people, under 25, who are being put on universal credit and we’re expecting it to get worse this year.”

The increase is a nationwide problem, according to end of year figures released by Trussell Trust. Their latest report, released on Tuesday, shows that between April 2016 and March 2017 there were 1,182,954 three day emergency food supplies distributed to people across the country, compared to 1,109,309 during the same period last year. In Norfolk there was a distribution increase of 1,736,

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