Published: 14:25, 06 November 2018
| Updated: 14:29, 06 November 2018
Nearly 10,000 people in Kent are now relying on help from foodbanks.
Figures from the Trussell Trust show 9,025 three day emergency supplies were handed out in the county between April 1 and September 30 this year.
This is an increase of 2.74% on the same period last year, when 8,784 people in crisis were helped by the charity.
The charity operates eight foodbanks in Kent in Gravesend, Swanley, Medway, Sittingbourne, Faversham, Deal, Dover and Folkestone.
The Trussell Trust is blaming problems with the introduction of Universal Credit - the government's new benefits system - the rise.
They claim the only way to prevent more people needing to use foodbanks in the future is to reduce the five week minimum wait for the first payment or pause all new claims entirely.
Emma Revie, Chief Executive of The Trussell Trust, said: "We created systems like our national health service, fire service and benefits system because we’re a country that believes in protecting each other. Our benefits system is supposed to anchor any of us from being swept into poverty, but if Universal Credit is to do that, we need to see urgent changes.
"It’s not right that people are being forced to use foodbanks after weeks of waiting for Universal Credit payments. The changes announced in last week’s Budget are a good start - but they won’t solve all of the problems foodbanks see, and they won’t help people making new claims this winter.
"We’re seeing soaring levels of need at foodbanks. The time to act is now. Foodbanks cannot continue to pick up the pieces - we have to make sure our benefits system can protect people from hunger."
It's feared even more people could end up needing support over the next six months, as there's typically more demand for foodbanks during the winter.
But the government insists the rise in the number of people using the service is not a direct cause of Universal Credit, and that improvements to the benefits system have been made.
A spokesperson from the Department for Work and Penions said: "Universal Credit replaces an out-of-date, complex benefits system with cliff edges that disincentivises work and often trapped people in unemployment. We have just announced that we will be increasing the amount people can earn on Universal Credit by £1,000 before their payment begins to be reduced, to ensure work always pays, and introduced £1 billion to help people moving over from the old benefits system to Universal Credit.
"This is on top of the improvements we have already made – advances have increased to 100%, the 7-day waiting period has been removed and we are paying housing benefit for an additional two weeks when people move onto Universal Credit.
"The reasons why people use food banks are complex so it’s wrong to link a rise to any one cause."
Another concern is the number of children in Kent relying on these services. Between April and September 3,376 were given emergency supply packages.
A national petition calling on the government to fix Universal Credit from the End Hunger UK campaign, backed by The Trussell Trust and other charities and faith groups, will be delivered to 10 Downing Street tomorrow.