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Swale rallies to help families affected by £20-a-week Universal Credit cut


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As some of the poorest families in Kent have £20-a-week struck from their Universal Credit payment, supermarkets and food banks in Swale are doing their most to help out.

The temporary credit increase, which was brought in to help during the pandemic, was withdrawn on October 6 leaving many families without vital funds.

Community champions with their "pick up pack" initiative at Morrisons' Sittingbourne store
Community champions with their "pick up pack" initiative at Morrisons' Sittingbourne store

Now supermarkets and charitable groups around Sittingbourne and on Sheppey are trying to make the transition as easy as possible.

Sally Candy, the community champion at Morrisons store in Mill Way, Sittingbourne, said: "We're running a Pick Up Pack initiative which will massively help people in need of food during these tough times. We select certain items to go in the bags to help complete meals for families, hygiene packs for men and women, treats for children and general long-life food.

"The bags are all to the value of £10. Customers buy them as they walk through the barriers to the main shop, pay for them normally and then place them in a donation cage behind the checkouts. After this, we sort out all of the donations and supply food shelters and charities in the area."

Beneficiaries include the Salvation Army, the Bus Shelter Project, Gillingham Street Angels, New Leaf Domestic Violence and Diversity House.

Sally added: "It's important now, more than ever, to be aware of food banks and the good they do, whether you are donating or using them. That £20 cut in universal credit could be the difference between a family being able to eat or not."

Tony Cooper, founder of the Bus Food Shelter project
Tony Cooper, founder of the Bus Food Shelter project

Bus Food Shelter founder Tony Cooper, who helps care for vulnerable people from a base in Phoenix House, Sittingbourne, said: "It's been mad recently with nearly everybody who attended just for food parcels. How we will be able to support these people with the demand of food that's going out at the moment, I'm not really sure.

"We are busier than ever following the universal money cut. It should never have come to this. Look at all the food being wasted because pig farms not having the staff. This food could help so many people."

The Sheppey Community Development Forum has also just launched a mobile community supermarket in a converted double-decker bus to take food to Island communities and sell it to members at cut price.

The idea was first mooted during an online meeting of the Forum in November as levels of food poverty began rising across the Island during the coronavirus lockdown.

Lynne Clifton, who runs the Island's Salvation Army, said: "We acknowledge the incredible work the food banks have been doing to help tackle the desperate situation many households are facing but we believe this project will be transformational for individuals and families and help narrow the gap between those who have enough to eat and those who don’t."

Sheppey Support Bus launch with, from the left, Steve Chalke, Tim Lambkin, Lynne Clifton and Paul Murray at the Minster campus of the Oasis Academy
Sheppey Support Bus launch with, from the left, Steve Chalke, Tim Lambkin, Lynne Clifton and Paul Murray at the Minster campus of the Oasis Academy

Read more: All the latest news from Sittingbourne

Read more: All the latest news from Sheppey

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