PROBLEMS with Universal Credit and debt have led to a shocking rise in the number of emergency supplies handed out at Wirral foodbanks, new figures reveal.
The Trussell Trust said 15,280 people received emergency food in Wirral last year, an increase of 35% on 2017, when 11,296 used its services. 3,541 of those were children.
The charity said that if the minimum five-week wait for a first Universal Credit payment is not reduced, the only way to prevent more people being forced to rely on foodbanks is to pause all new claims for the benefit.
Richard Roberts, general manager of Wirral foodbank, said: "We have recently released, by ward, the number of people supported by Wirral foodbank in 2018.
"It continues to be of concern that last year 15,280 people received emergency food, a 35% increase on 2017.
"There are a variety of reasons for this increase, including changes and delays in benefit payments, low income and debt."
Campbell Robb, chief executive of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, recently referred to foodbanks as the "fourth emergency service."
He continued: "It's not right that anyone in Wirral has to rely on emergency support from our foodbank, but the reality is that in 2018, we distributed 147 tons of food to local people.
"Without the tremendous generosity of the people and businesses of Wirral, who donated so generously with food and finances, we could not have done this.
"I also pay tribute to our amazing volunteers, who work tirelessly in our office, warehouse and centres. Thank you to all who support us every week."
Birkenhead MP Frank Field said: "Our wonderful Wirral foodbank’s latest data make for the most awful reading. Every visit is a life sustained and hunger prevented.
"But look at the totals for the number of families facing destitution in the last two years in Rock Ferry, Seacombe, Leasowe, and Bidston & St James.
"And look also at the 35% increase in the number of people across Wirral seeking help from the foodbank. I repeat: a 35% increase.
"Why this desperate call for help? Benefit changes, benefit delays, debt and low income are the main reasons. What an indictment.
"The Government should hang its head in shame. But thanks to Wirral citizens who are determined that their neighbour will not go hungry.
"It's over to the new work and pensions secretary now to look after all of our neighbours by putting her proposed reforms into action".
Wirral West MP and shadow secretary of state for work and pensions Margaret Greenwood said: "It is really shocking that there was a 35% increase in the number of people needing the support of Wirral foodbank between 2017 and 2018.
"The figures show that in Wirral West alone 381 more foodbank vouchers were issued in 2018 compared to 2017.
“It is also a matter of real concern that 47% of those who were issued foodbank vouchers said benefit changes or delays were the reason they needed support - a further 25% said the reason was low income.
“Recently Amber Rudd, secretary of state for work and pensions, acknowledged the fact that people had difficulty accessing their money early enough under Universal Credit is one of the causes for the growth in foodbank use.
"It is astonishing the secretary of state has admitted this link yet has failed to take action on the five-week wait.
"The initial five-week wait is pushing many families into poverty so it is no wonder many people are being driven towards foodbanks.
"Universal Credit is clearly failing and the Government should stop the roll-out now.”
Wirral foodbank is in need of the following food items: instant mash, fruit juice, tinned spaghetti, sponge puddings, UHT milk.
There are donation points across the borough - details can be found at https://wirral.foodbank.org.uk/give-help/donate-food/