Hundreds of Sheffield families struggling to feed themselves

Food bank usage in Sheffield is increasing.
Food bank usage in Sheffield is increasing.

Hundreds of people in Sheffield are struggling to feed their families, Citizens Advice has revealed.

The organisation conducted a survey in March which found almost 800 of its clients – representing 47 per cent of the people it dealt with – had been having difficulty paying for food in the past six months.

Nick Waterfield, from Sheffield's Parson Cross Initiative

Nick Waterfield, from Sheffield's Parson Cross Initiative

It comes after the ‘Share’ food bank, which serves Parson Cross, reported demand for its services had doubled in the first six months of the year.

Organisers from the food bank said three-quarters of its referrals since January required support because of delays to or sanctions on benefit payments.

Sheffield Citizens Advice and Law Centre also recently claimed that vulnerable jobseekers in the city were having their benefits stopped incorrectly, leaving people with mental health problems and learning disabilities without support.

Clare Lodder, who is acting chief executive of Sheffield Citizens Advice, said: “Every day our advisers see people that need to use food banks – often as a result of failures in the social support system or Job Seekers Allowance sanctions imposed by mistake. Our latest client survey showed that 47 per cent of people had struggled to afford food in the previous six months.”

Nick Waterfield, from the Parson Cross Initiative which is behind the Share food bank scheme, said: “Sanctions are being pursued more aggressively and that is causing hardship.”

Chris Marriott, from the Jubilee Food Bank, which operates across Sheffield, said the organisation was also seeing numbers of people referred because of problems with their benefits.

He said the food bank, which helps about 20 families per week, had not seen a noticeable increase in users numbers since the start of the year.

But he added around ‘70 to 80 per cent’ of their referrals were linked to those having issues with benefits or residents with long-term debts – with problems growing since the introduction of tougher sanctions rules by the Government.

He said: “More people are more prone to be sanctioned and left without anything at all.”

Between November 2012 and September 2013, 789,000 people around the country were handed benefit sanctions – compared to 705,000 in the 12 months previously.