Food bank use rises 20% in Cardiff in one year

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The number of emergency meals handed out by a city food bank has risen by 20% in one year, its figures have shown

Cardiff Foodbank gave 14,568 three-day food supplies in 2016-17, with more than a third going to children.

Across Wales, the figure rose by 11%, with 43% of recipients citing problems with benefits as the main cause.

The Department for Work and Pensions said the reasons for food bank use were "complex" and it was misleading to link them to any one issue.

Statistics from the Trussell Trust food bank network, which Cardiff is part of, showed the numbers of emergency food parcels handed out was rising across the UK.

In Wales, the figure rose from 85,656 in 2015-16 to 95,190 in 2016-17.

The top three reasons given for food bank referral were benefit delays, low income, and benefit changes.

Cardiff Foodbank said it shared the concerns of other Trussell Trust food banks in Universal Credit rollout areas, saying the six week or longer wait for a first payment could contribute to debt, mental health issues and rent arrears.

The trust has welcomed what it called a "co-ordinated approach" to Universal Credit rollout in some council areas such as Torfaen where the local authority invited food banks and other charities to form working groups ahead of the new benefit's implementation.

Wales was the first nation to complete Universal Credit rollout to single jobseekers and is now beginning with couples and families.

Tony Graham, director of devolved nations at the Trussell Trust, said: "We are watching with interest the development of Scottish Government plans to ease the effects of Universal Credit by giving fortnightly payments and making housing payments directly to landlords, and we would welcome a conversation with Welsh Government about how we in Wales can best support people who face challenges with further Universal Credit rollout in the coming months."

Cardiff Foodbank's partnership and fundraising manager, Helen Bull, said: "It is deeply concerning that we are still seeing an increase in the number of three day emergency food supplies provided to local people in crisis in Cardiff over the last year.,

"Anybody could find themselves in need of the food bank. Every week people are referred to us after being hit by something unavoidable - such as illness, a delay in a benefit payment or an unexpected bill - it means food is simply unaffordable."

A spokesman for the DWP said: "The reasons for food bank use are complex, so it's misleading to link them to any one issue."

He added: "We work closely with local authorities to support those who need extra help. Budgeting support, benefit advances, and direct rent payments to landlords are available to those who need them."

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