DWP move “makes it harder for claimants to get help when we should be making it easier” 

The Management Committee (MC) is responsible for the day-to-day running of the Food Hub. Over the past couple of months, decisions made by the MC have included:

  • On a trial basis, removing shower gel from clients’ parcels. Gel is liable to leak in transport, contributes to the already heavy bags that our drivers carry to clients’ doors, and removing it will cut our use of plastics;
  • Adding kitchen cleaning items to clients’ packages; and
  • For safeguarding and health & safety reasons, stipulating that young people under 16 should not be part of our packing and delivery sessions (except for Duke of Edinburgh bronze award students known to volunteers, who would be responsible for their supervision).

Currently the MC is monitoring the impact on our client referral numbers of Purley Jobcentre ending their practice of referring clients directly to us. Instead, benefit claimants are now signposted to other agencies that make referrals, such as Purley Cross Centre or Citizens Advice Croydon. Historically around one-third of our clients have been referred to us by Purley Jobcentre, but in February the Department for Work and Pensions instructed Jobcentres in England to stop this practice.

IFAN, the umbrella organisation for independent food banks to which the Food Hub is affiliated, said it was concerned the halt in referrals by Jobcentres would make it harder for benefit claimants to get a food parcel “when we should be making it as easy as possible to get emergency help”.

Worrying about money leaflet 2024Meanwhile, IFAN has updated the Worrying about money? leaflet, produced in collaboration with the Food Hub, Croydon Voluntary Action and other local organisations.

It is a practical guide to the help and support available in Croydon for people struggling to pay their household bills, facing serious debt problems or suffering because of difficulties with job income, benefit payments or a sudden change in circumstances.

We give the leaflet to each Food Hub client with their food parcel, and local Food Stops and Purley Jobcentre also stock copies for their clients. It can be viewed here, and an interactive step-by-step version is available at www.worryingaboutmoney.co.uk/croydon.

Inflation falling, but cost of living crisis ‘far from over’

IFAN, the Independent Food Aid Network, has welcomed inflation falling to its lowest level for two years but emphasises that the cost of living crisis is “far from over” for low-income households referred to food banks like the Food Hub.

Figures announced in late March by the Office for National Statistics found that inflation was at a two-year low of 3.4 per cent in February, with food inflation at 5 per cent (from a high of 19.2 per cent in March 2023).

IFAN Director Sabine Goodwin said: “Our latest data shows just how precarious the situation on the ground is both for people struggling to afford as well as overstretched food banks trying their utmost to provide support.

“We do not anticipate this drop in food inflation to impact soaring need for food banks, because large numbers of households have built up debt.

“Cost of living payments have been removed and the Household Support Fund has been extended [only] temporarily, impacting on the level of support [from] local authorities.”

Sabine echoed the views of everyone associated with Purley Food Hub: Nobody wants to have to use a food bank and no food bank team wants to be needed because their fellow citizens can’t afford food.

IFAN is supporting an urgent call from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and Trussell Trust for the Government to introduce an Essentials Guarantee, to enshrine in law that everyone has a protected minimum amount of support to afford essentials.

In the Budget in March, Universal Credit for a single person over 25 increased to £90 per week from 1st April, and for a couple to £142 per week. Joseph Rowntree, Trussell and IFAN are calling for increases to £120 and £200 respectively:

EssentialSingle (£ per week)Couple (£ per week)
Food and non-alcoholic drinks£39£72
Electricity and gas£27£38
Clothes and shoes£6£12
Communications, including phones, internet & postage£9£12
Sundries – for example toiletries, haircuts, cleaning materials, bank charges£15£23
Total (rounded)£120£200
Full details at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation website here.