Foodbank use up by 23 per cent and people in Leeds on Universal Credit rises by 99 per cent as school meals campaign continues

In the space of just five months the number of people in Leeds claiming Universal Credit increased by 99 per cent.

By Emma Ryan
Tuesday, 27th October 2020, 6:00 am

In the last year from April 2019 to the end of March 2020 more than 41,000 people in Leeds used a foodbank which was an increase of 23 per cent from the previous 12 month period.

The figures have been released by Leeds Community Foundation (LCF) as the country becomes divided by debate over the merits of whether families who are struggling to feed their children should receive government help.

Three of the city's MPs voted against a motion by the Labour Party to extend free school meals over school holidays with vouchers. On the other hand, Leeds United players have donated £25,000 of their own money to the Healthy Holidays programme, run by LCF in partnership with Leeds City Council, and which provides healthy and positive activities as well as a decent meal for disadvantaged children.

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Leeds Community Foundation has spoken out to dispel some of the myths behind families in need of food and financial support.

That donation was matched by a further £25,000 from Leeds United and the club's supporter's trust boycotted BT Sport's pay per view charge for Friday night's game against Aston Villa with fans opting to donate the fee instead.

More than £40,000 was raised which will be donated to foodbanks across the city and hundreds of businesses from national restaurant chains to local sandwich shops have offered to provide food to families over half term.

Last night, LCF released some statistics which aims to dispel some of the myths behind the work it does.

In March this year, and before coronavirus took hold and the consequent financial and health consequences, it was thought that 19.7 per cent of all Leeds working residents earned less than the Real Living Wage in 2019, affecting 66,700 full-time employed residents.​

Around 22 per cent of the Leeds population is living in relative poverty after housing costs are deducted from income. This equates to 174,000 people in Leeds, while an estimated 11,500 workers are on zero hour contracts.​

There are also figures to show that the number of people being referred to foodbanks had increased by 23 per cent in the space of a year. Between April 1, 2019 and March 31, 2020, 41,600 people in Leeds had accessed a food bank with linkages to this rise being associated with the roll out of Universal Credit and Welfare Reforms.

Since lockdown further figures show that there are currently 28,614 children entitled to free school meals in Leeds, which has risen at an accelerated rate and is up by 2,596 since lockdown first took effect.and official DWP data for Leeds reveals that in February 2020, 33,715 people citywide were claiming Universal Credit, but by July, which is the latest available data, this had increased to 67,174 and is a 99 per cent increase and up by 33,459 claimants.

Kate Hainsworth, Chief Executive of the Leeds Community Foundation said: "It is brilliant that this last weekend has really shone a national spotlight on the crucial local work we’ve been building with partners since 2017. Our most disadvantaged families deserve to have healthy holidays with so much more than a meal – with reassurance, and shared experiences, and fun activities and the chance to talk with trusted people who understand."

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