Elizabeth Alexander and Councillor John Shaw

Renfrewshire Food Bank has issued a plea for donations to help people who are struggling following the introduction of Universal Credit.

Elizabeth Alexander and Councillor John Shaw

Universal Credit was introduced in Renfrewshire in September 2018.

Administered by the UK Government’s Department of Work and Pensions, the new benefits system replaces Housing Benefit, Income Support, Income Based Jobseekers Allowance, Income Related Employment and Support Allowance, Child Tax Credits and Working Tax Credits with a single monthly payment.

However, research by Trussell Trust has shown there has been a 52% increase in demand at food banks in areas where the new system has been in place for 12 months.

Elizabeth Alexander, manager of Renfrewshire Food Bank, said: “There has been a big increase in demand at food banks in areas where Universal Credit has been in place for a year and there’s no reason to suspect Renfrewshire is going to be any different.”

The food bank, which took in 97 tonnes of donations last year, is now running low on certain items and it has asked people to donate what they can to help.

Items it particularly needs include long-life juice, tinned potatoes, tinned tomatoes, tinned fruit, tinned fish, tinned custard, rice and toiletries. Money can also be donated.

Elizabeth said: “We are looking for donations. Anything people can give will help us support those who are struggling in Renfrewshire.

“We would not be able to do what we do without the people of Renfrewshire. They never fail us, if we are short they always respond. They are so generous.”

Renfrewshire Councillors approved plans to give the food bank £30,000 funding over three years earlier this month to reduce the impact of Universal Credit.

The money will come from the Council’s Tackling Poverty Programme.

It usually takes five weeks to receive your first payment after applying for Universal Credit, meaning anyone currently applying will not receive any money until after Christmas.

Elizabeth added: “We know that we have to be here. We have people coming through our door who often haven’t eaten for a couple of days and if we weren’t able to give them food then they would not eat.

“The funding gives us more stability and security. We have these funds for the next three years and that will help to make sure we’re here to help those in need.”

Renfrewshire Council’s Convener for Finance, Resources and Customer Services, Councillor John Shaw, said: “The introduction of Universal Credit has put a lot of additional pressure on food banks across Scotland and the UK.

“The Food Bank will receive £30,000 from the Tackling Poverty Programme over the next three years to reduce the impact of Universal Credit but it still needs donations to help those in need. This is a particularly challenging time of year for many.

“If you can donate please do. Anything you can do to help will make a difference to families who are struggling.

“Food banks are not the solution to tackling poverty and we are working on projects that will reduce the need for them in Renfrewshire.”

The Tackling Poverty Programme has been at the centre of many projects to help struggling families and households in Renfrewshire since launching in 2015.

In March 2018 Renfrewshire Council announced £5million funding for the Tackling Poverty Programme over five years to deliver key projects and activities that will support people and families on low incomes.

Projects within the programme are designed to provide support for families that need it most, remove barriers to participation for children and young people, and support health and wellbeing for young people.

To donate visit Renfrewshire Food Bank’s Abercorn facility at Unit 12, 80 Abercorn Street, Paisley on a Monday and Friday between 10am and 12pm or Thursday and Friday between 5pm and 7pm.

For more information on the food bank and where you can donate visit www.renfrewshire.foodbank.org.uk.