Shock figures show nearly 3,000 local people given food parcels

Doug Beattie MLA
Doug Beattie MLA

Shocking figures show almost 3,000 people - half of whom were children - received emergency food supplies in the Upper Bann area over the past year.

The figures show that between April last year and March 2018, the Trussell Trust Foodbank Network provided 2,727 three-day emergency food supplies to people facing crisis in this area.

The alarming figures show that 1,028 of these were for children.

Ulster Unionist MLA Doug Beattie says his constituency office alone helps give out food vouchers around two to three times per week.

He said: “These are shocking figures which are compounded by the roll out of Universal Credit in various areas of the constituency.

“My Ulster Unionist Party Constituency office continues to help with a variety of benefit claims, this includes Universal credit which was rolled out in Portadown on March 7 and will be rolled out in Lurgan on 30 May this year. The office also continues to give out food vouchers around two to three times a week.

“Anyone in our society could suffer illness, disability, family breakdown or the loss of a job and in doing so could find themselves in need of support in the form of benefits but these benefits are not immediate and therefore many need to lean on foodbanks to get themselves through this crisis. No-one in Upper Bann or the wider society – in this day and age - should be left hungry or destitute, therefore the present system is simply not sustainable.

“Therefore I support the Trussell Trust’s call for a universal support service which supports people transitioning onto Universal Credit or making a new claim.

“This includes local government provisions to support people with the greatest financial need through engagement with service providers such as the Northern Ireland Housing Executive,” said Mr Beattie.

“There also needs to be an urgent inquiry into poor administration within Universal Credit and its effects.”

SDLP MLA Dolores Kelly: More also urged more support for families facing benefit sanctions as Universal Credit is rolled out.

“The regressive Universal Credit sanction regime is much harsher than before. It is important that changes are made to give more protection to claimants who are facing sanctions. Although home visits are currently carried out in cases where there are mental health issues, home visits should also be made to any family with children who are due to be hit with a financial sanction. It is important that these visits take place before any sanction is imposed to give these families as much support as possible.

“The Department has admitted people’s entitlement to Universal Credit in NI alone will fall by £105m every single year. This tells us everything we need to know about the intentions of Universal Credit. In the absence of an accompanying Jobs Strategy, it is not empowering people into employment. Instead, it will continue to impact upon the most vulnerable in our society.”