Janet Fletcher (above), the manager of Ealing Foodbank, sees people in crisis every day and these numbers have more than doubled since lockdown began in March.
“Since COVID-19, we have seen a lot of new faces, many of whom were on zero hours contracts, and who haven’t been furloughed or whose companies have closed,” said Jane. “Lots of people are really struggling out there.”
Regardless of why people are coming to the foodbank, she is very clear about its goal.
She said: “Our aim is to restore dignity and revive the hope of people who use our service. We talk to them as humans and ask them how they are doing and what they need.”
MORE DEMAND IN THE SUMMER
Ealing Foodbank relies on the generosity of local people. As demand has increased, so too has its need for donations from the community. Check the monthly shopping list at ealing.foodbank.org.uk and see where you can leave your donations. Big or small – everything helps.
Jane said: “A lot of our clients are working but are very low paid. The last few months have seen them take a huge financial hit, when many of them were just about managing before. We always see a spike in referrals as we approach the summer holidays anyway, and I’m expecting this to be even higher this year. If you are a family and you need help, please ask for it sooner rather than later.”
Ealing Foodbank covers the whole borough and works closely with the Ealing Together coalition, including the council’s local welfare assistance (LWA) team and the Ealing Advice Service (Ealing’s independent advice charity). Each of these refers clients to one another to try to get people the help they need.
‘SOME IMMEDIATE RELIEF’
As well as providing support through food parcels and shopping for people who were isolated because of COVID-19, the council’s LWA team has also seen a rise in residents needing financial help, with a 50% increase in crisis payments made during lockdown. But foodbank vouchers and crisis payments are just the start.
Councillor Bassam Mahfouz, the council’s cabinet member for finance and leisure, explained: “The local welfare assistance team was set up in the wake of the benefit changes and the move to universal credit. Since then, our team has helped thousands of people who have found themselves in real financial trouble, because of delayed benefit payments, sanctions, or just because their working wage is too low to cover their outgoings.
“A crisis payment or referral to the foodbank is the first step. It gives people some immediate relief and a breathing space so they can feed themselves and their families. The team can then work with them to improve their circumstances in the long term, with advice and support, so they can break the cycle of debt and dependence and move to a situation where they feel more in control of their finances and their lives.”
‘GET IN TOUCH WITH US’
Councillor Jasbir Anand, cabinet member for business and community services, added: “If you are facing these financial problems, you are not alone. Sadly, it can happen to anyone. It can feel overwhelming, so, many people don’t want to face it in fear of how hard it will be. But, by doing so, it will only make it harder to deal with down the line. Help is at hand, so please reach out at the earliest opportunity and get support.
“We can help with debt advice, personal budgeting sessions, job clubs, skills and training so that income can be increased; and benefit checks to make sure you’re getting all the help that you’re entitled to. We can also help you to negotiate with your landlord if you’re in rent arrears, so you can keep a roof over your head.”
Ealing Together is still supporting vulnerable residents. Visit ealingtogether.org or call 020 8825 7170
Anyone who does not meet the criteria to get help from local welfare assistance can now call a free help line that has been started by the organisation that runs the foodbank, Trussell Trust, and Citizens Advice. Call 0808 208 2138 (Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm)
Help Through Crisis can offer further support and advice to anyone using the foodbank on 0800 448 0504. It is run by Ealing and Hounslow CVS.
The government’s advice on COVID-19 shielding for vulnerable residents is changing from 1 August and weekly food boxes will stop. For more information on this, and to see what alternative help here is for those coming out of shielding, go to www.ealing.gov.uk/coronavirus or call 020 8825 7170.