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Universal Credit pushing more families into ‘food bank’ poverty, Tower Hamlets mayor warns

PUBLISHED: 15:22 08 November 2017 | UPDATED: 19:43 09 November 2017

Tower Hamlets Mayor John Biggs warning toTheresa May's government of Universal Credit pushing families into poverty. Picture: Mike Brooke

Tower Hamlets Mayor John Biggs warning toTheresa May's government of Universal Credit pushing families into poverty. Picture: Mike Brooke

Picture: Mike Brooke

The new Universal Credit is pushing families in deprived areas of east London into greater poverty and increasing their reliance on food banks, the Mayor of Tower Hamlets is warning Theresa May’s government.

Mayor John Biggs visiting Bow food bank which is lifeline to East End families in pove4ty. Picture: LBTHMayor John Biggs visiting Bow food bank which is lifeline to East End families in pove4ty. Picture: LBTH

Food banks in areas like London’s deprived East End where the all-in-one benefit payment has been brought in are having to cope with an average 30 per cent rise in families turning up desperate for help, according to the Trussell Trust.

The rise is caused mainly by the six-week delay before the first credit payments are made.

Mayor John Biggs, on a visit to the Bow food bank on Monday to highlight “the vital lifeline” it gives those in need, called on the government to back local authorities struggling to cope with rising poverty.

“Universal Credit is pushing more people to use food banks,” he said.

Tower Hamlets deputy mayor Sirajul Islam: Tower Hamlets deputy mayor Sirajul Islam: "We've set up £5m poverty fund for struggling families." Picture: Mike Brooke

“Volunteers do an excellent job and the council does a lot of work to reduce food poverty.

“But the reality is that the government needs to back us up with solid action and address the impact of Universal Credit.”

The mayor is pressing for the government to support local authorities in tackling the shock increase in food bank dependency.

The Bow food bank is itself struggling with an increase in families desperately seeking help since the Credit roll-out earlier this year.

Deputy Mayor Sirajul Islam revealed: “We have set up a £5 million anti-poverty fund to support struggling families and help them into work.

“I hope the government uses the Budget this month to fix Universal Credit and avoid making the situation even worse.”

A report by Sustain’s charity ranked Tower Hamlets fourth out of the 32 London boroughs for “taking leadership” on food poverty.

Cllr Joshua Peck, cabinet member for work and economic growth, said: “The Bow food bank is a vital lifeline for families, but sadly Universal Credit is only pushing more people through their doors who are having to ask for food that doesn’t need to be cooked—that shows they may not even be able to afford to run their cooker.”

The East End’s main food banks are at St Mary’s Bow Church in Bow Road, the Salvation Army’s Poplar centre in Kerbey Street, off East India Dock Road, and the Whitechapel Mission near the Royal London Hospital.

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