FOODBANKS and charities working with the homeless are fearful of a “huge storm” of demand this autumn, as the effect of redundancies are felt and hunger mounts.
Already, volunteers are looking ahead with “fear and trepidation at what is coming down the road at us”, one foodbank manager reported.
Charities fear that, as government support tails off in the autumn, the demands on charities will increase to unsustainable levels, and that a new wave of homelessness will be unleashed. Those most at risk of destitution are those already vulnerable, including migrants who are have no access to government support.
The manager of Worcester Foodbank, Grahame Lucas, said that demand was currently at about 60 or 70 per cent above normal: a slight drop on the 90-per-cent rise for services seen by foodbanks in April.
“Demand went through the roof in April, and it’s now about 60 or 70 per cent above normal. From May and June, there have been some pop-up schemes supported by the Government which are being run by volunteers and people who have been furloughed. When they cease operating, then we’ll be left carrying it all.
“We are looking at a significant increase as redundancies continue, and we expect there to be a storm on the horizon.”
In preparation for the autumn and winter, the foodbank has taken on more storage space to prepare for the demand.
“We are concerned not just about the numbers of people coming to us for help, but that people who have donated will not be able to donate, because they will face hard times themselves ahead. We don’t know what is on the horizon, but we’re waiting with fear and trepidation of what is coming down the road at us.”
Cathy Howard, from Oxford Food Bank, told Radio 4 this week: “A lot of people suspect it is going to get a lot worse. It is terrifying for a lot of charities, because the burden is going to fall on us.”
A Christian charity working with the homeless, Housing Justice, said that it fears a rise in destitution this autumn among particularly vulnerable groups, including migrants.
The charity’s director for England, Jacob Quagliozzi, said: “We are particularly concerned about the outlook for the autumn. As we enter official recession in October, there is going to be a very challenging labour market with the furlough scheme winding up, and it looks likely that some of the support for renters will also have been withdrawn.
“The economic impact of Covid-19 will have started to filter into the real economy in a significant way. We need to see work happening now to prevent people presenting as homeless to their local authorities in the autumn and winter. The last few months, and perhaps those to come, have also placed huge pressure on relationships, and we know this, too, is a major factor in homelessness.
“All of these factors may well have an effect on the number of people who may be forced to sleep rough this winter, and we, as a society, need to think carefully about how we respond to this, given the positive steps taken in rough sleeping over the last few months.
“We need to consider what provision there will be for the most vulnerable — particularly migrants without recourse to public funds. There is a real risk that destitution will increase among this group unless action is taken.”
Paula Stringer, of Christians Against Poverty, said that churches and charities were readying themselves. “Right now, the UK is at a point of postponed crisis. Some job losses are coming through, but, largely, people are protected from the worst of it thanks to the raft of help on offer — furlough schemes and mortgage holidays, for example.
“MAPS [the Money and Pension Service] is predicting the demand for debt help to peak at the beginning of 2021; so we know that massive need is on its way. To some degree, that is useful, because it means, as a Church across the UK, we have time now to ready ourselves and be tooled up to be helpful to our communities.”
Charities, including the Trussell Trust, are calling on the Government to bring in a coronavirus emergency income-support scheme, to provide everyone with a basic level of income.
The chief executive at the Trussell Trust, Emma Revie, said: “We’ve seen the number of families needing help from foodbanks almost double as the impact of coronavirus has hit people’s incomes.
“Churches across the UK have played a vital role in supporting foodbanks by not only donating food, but also providing venues, volunteers, and financial support. Drawn from across a range of denominations, churches — together with many volunteers, and supporters of other faiths and none — are making it possible to sustain foodbank provision at a time when it is so badly needed, as well as highlighting the scale of destitution through data collection and campaigning work.”