More people in the UK used foodbanks to feed themselves over the Christmas period than ever before. Last December, demand for Trussell Trust supplies increases by almost 50 per cent, and the numbers through their doors last Christmas were expected to be 13 per cent higher than the previous year. But who are the people forced to depend on foodbanks?
Maria Amos (56), Wirral, Merseyside: “I had a seasonal job working at Chester Zoo towards the end of 2015, and after I finished that I was told I was going onto Universal Credit. I was told there would be a wait and there was no way of getting help in the meantime.
I was in the deepest, darkest place. No gas, no electric on. I was down to about six stone, I think. I was on the verge of ending it all
“I was on my own and I had no money at all. There was five weeks when I had absolutely nothing coming in. So I had no choice but to go to the Wirral Foodbank. They were lovely, smashing people but I was in such a bad way that after a while I couldn’t really even get out to the food bank. There was a local church group that helped then – they very were kind and came to see me and delivered the food.
“I was in the deepest, darkest place. No gas, no electric on. I was down to about six stone, I think. I was on the verge of ending it all. A neighbour knocked on my door to check on me, and I burst into tears, in such a terrible state. So they got an ambulance for me and I was in hospital for a while, in psychiatric care.
“After I began to recover I finally got the Universal Credit – it’s around £52 a week now. But I had built up council tax arrears and arrears with my landlord which I’m still trying to pay. So in terms of my health and mental health, it’s been difficult – I’m still constantly anxious about money. I’m getting Personal Independence Payment (PIP) benefit now, which helps.
“The thing is, I had always worked, I’ve had some good jobs, and that’s supposed to be what the government wants you to do. But going through all this with the welfare system, I can’t work now. I’m just trying to keep my head above water, and I’m hoping to find a new place to live when I have the debts paid off. It’s 2018 and people in Britain are going cap in hand for food. Awful.”