Concern over 'devastating' rise in foodbank use in Northumberland

Foodbank use in Northumberland has risen in recent years
-Credit: (Image: Craig Connor/ChronicleLive)

Concerns have been raised over the number of food parcels handed out by the Trussell Trust in Northumberland.

The charity, which operates a network of foodbanks across the country, handed out 3,524 food parcels in Northumberland between April 1 2023 and March 31 2024. This compared to just 963 in 2019/20 - representing an increase of 265.94%.

The Government has insisted that less people are now in "absolute poverty" than they were in 2010. However, Northumberland Labour leader Coun Scott Dickinson MBE feared the figures only told part of the story in the county, with just one Trussell Trust outlet operating in Northumberland.

He said: "My worry is that the Trussell Trust figures are devastating, but they're just foodbanks that are registered with them. Lots of smaller foodbanks in Northumberland such as Alnwick and Amble are giving thousands of food parcels out every week and they aren't even included in those figures."

Coun Dickinson is also the managing director of Hadston House, a youth and community project in his ward. Just last week, Hadston launched a Community Pantry initiative to offer "quality produce at a reduced cost".

Coun Dickinson continued: "Linking in with Hadston House, it shows me that it is people that are working who are also struggling. People automatically think it is just people who are jobless, and it's not.

"At the launch of the community pantry, there were teachers, nurses and even a policeman. These figures are shocking, but it could be twice as bad.

"It shows more than ever how the cost of living crisis is affecting families and those struggling to find work."

Blyth is one of the most deprived towns in the North East, according to data from the 2021 census. The mayor of Blyth, Coun Warren Taylor, volunteers at the town's foodbank and has first-hand experience of the number of people requiring support.

He said: "Certainly, I think last week on Wednesday was the largest number of parcels that we have given out for several months. We weren't quite as busy this week, but bearing in mind the weather it was still busy.

"I've definitely seen an upsurge in people coming in, it has been noticeable - particularly last week. We get a lot of people who are working, people who have been in rented accommodation and their landlord has decided to sell up.

"It doesn't take much to tip people over the edge. It can be bleak at times - we get a lot of people who are totally embarrassed to have to come in to a foodbank.

"The nice thing is, we get a lot of people who come back once they're back on their feet and make a donation."

Responding to the figures and Coun Dickinson's comments, a spokesman for the DWP said: "There 200,000 fewer people in the North East in absolute poverty compared to 2010, and nationally our £108 billion cost of living support package prevented 1.3 million people falling into poverty in 2022-23.

“After boosting benefits and raising the State Pension, we’re putting more money in people’s pockets by raising the National Living Wage, cutting taxes and driving down inflation while investing billions through our Back to Work Plan to help over a million people break down barriers to work and become more financially secure.”

The Government say there are 1.1 million fewer people in absolute poverty since 2010. Absolute poverty is based on a defined minimum standard of living, whereas relative poverty is based on the level of living in the community in which a person lives.

Government figures show that there were 14.3 million people in relative poverty after housing costs (21%) compared to 12 million in absolute poverty (18%). The Government also pointed out it had increased Universal Credit by 6.7%, the minimum wage up to £11.44 and pensions were up by 8.5%.