People struggling day-to-day ‘don’t see that autumn statement will impact them’

People who walked in the pouring rain to collect food parcels from a community centre do not see that Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s autumn statement is going to have any impact on them, the venue’s manager said.

The Rosmini Centre in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire, offers support to the vulnerable, including to people on zero-hour contracts, on universal credit or who are homeless.

Centre manager Anita Grodkiewicz said more than 250 people have signed up to receive food packages.

“In the last few months I’d say it’s just gone crazy, over 250 signed up,” she said.

“Some people come every day, some people maybe work a Monday and Tuesday then they’ll come in Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.”

She said numbers were “reasonable and manageable” when they started providing food, initially sandwiches and then larger food parcels, about six years ago, with 15 to 20 people visiting per day.

Despite the soaring demand for the food parcels, she said they will stop giving them out at the end of December as they cannot afford the cost of collecting the food donations.

“We’ve still got to pay for a van, tax, insurance – we haven’t got any funding for it any more,” she said.

“So all of this side will finish at the end of December and then people are going to be reliant on how many times they’re allowed to go to the food bank or maybe a hot meal once or twice a week at the Salvation Army.

“We will still continue to provide sandwiches.”

Asked about the autumn statement, Ms Grodkiewicz said: “I think to be fair if you ask most of those people, they don’t see it’s going to have any impact on them.

“They’re literally struggling with the day to day.

Budget graphic
(PA Graphics)

“They’ve walked here today in the pouring down rain to get food because they need it.

“What’s been said in Parliament – are they even going to think it’s going to affect them?”

She attributed the increase in demand for food parcels to people “struggling for money”.

“Zero-hour contracts still continue, so people still don’t know from one week to the next,” she said.

“We’re coming now into the dead season anyway, so all the fruit-picking, pumpkins etc have all finished. All that type of seasonal work.”

She continued: “I think people on means-tested benefits, things may improve a little bit for them – at least there’s some support there.

“My concern is mainly people who are working but on the lowest wage.”

She said that increasing wages by “a few pence per hour” will not cover additional costs in transport, food and accommodation.

Andrajus Zaboronkovs, 42, who has lived in Wisbech since he moved from Lithuania in 2009, was collecting a food parcel from the centre.

The father-of-one said he lost his job as a farm labourer about a year ago when orders dipped and people were let go.

“I think it’s going to be difficult for a long time,” he said.

He said he appreciated the help of the community centre, and added of the cost-of-living crisis: “Everybody worries about this, everybody, it’s not just people like me on universal credit.”