End of Universal Credit £20pw uplift results in ‘surge of demand’ at Thanet’s Our Shop food clubs

Our Shop in Margate Photo Caroline Dyal

The removal of the £20 per week uplift in Universal Credit has already seen a surge in demand at Thanet’s Our Shop ‘food clubs,’ says county councillor Barry Lewis.

The shops are run by the team from Our Kitchen on the Isle of Thanet and offer goods at drastically reduced prices, meal kits, chances to learn new recipes, useful information sessions on nutrition and opportunities to taste new products.

Food is provided by organisations and groups including FareShare – which takes  good quality surplus from right across the food industry and redistributes to charities- Kent Gleaners and Windmill Community Gardens allotments.

Universal Credit rates had a temporary £20 per week uplift during the covid pandemic. The higher rate was brought to an end on October 6 resulting in a reduction to the benefit equivalent to £1,040 a year.

Cllr Barry Lewis

Cllr Lewis said: “The effect of the Universal Credit cut has meant a surge in demand for food at Our Shops.

“There has been a 20% increase in demand with 100 new members – now at 1,500 members – in less than two weeks and existing customers needing the service more.

“As one of the most deprived areas (in the country) this cut in UC doesn’t just affect those directly on the benefit but means spending power across Thanet has dropped. People have less disposable income for non-food items and that is devastating for our local economy.

“The cut hits Thanet harder than some other areas of Kent because of deprivation. Fortunately Our Shops can provide a partial solution.”

The latest data (September) shows Thanet has 18,325 UC claimants, a rise of 119 on the previous month. More than a third of those on UC are in work.

Last month 19 Thanet community groups and Margate artist Tracey Emin  signed a letter to government protesting against the end of the uplift.

The letter was signed by groups including Thanet Iceberg Project – responsible for The Kitchen CT9 – The Gap Project, Ramsgate Salvation Army and Margate Independent Foodbank and by both Thanet Labour and Green party members.

While every Universal Credit claim is now reduced by around £85 a month, single people under 25 are set to be hit by the biggest drop.

Monthly standard allowances drop:

By a quarter for single claimants under 25, from £344 to £257.33

By a fifth for single claimants over 25, from £411.51 to £324.84

By 17% for joint claimants under 25, from £490.60 to £403.93

By 14% for joint claimants over 25, from £596.58 to £509.91

The group letter said: “The reduction is guaranteed to impact the children of those claiming Universal Credit, There are 9,010 children classed as living in poverty in Thanet (after housing costs). This is the largest number of children of all Kent local authorities according to Kent County Council’s analytics department. 33% of Thanet children now live in poverty.”

In the letter the signatories also say it means a massive reduction of some £19million going into the local economy.

Following the UC rate reduction the government announced a £500m Household Support Fund to be distributed through councils to help those most in need.

Small grants to meet daily needs such as food, clothing, and utilities will be available.

The new fund will run over winter and it is understood Kent County Council will administer it although local DWP officers say they are still waiting for details of how people can access the grants.

Sharon Goodyer and mayor Raushan Ara at the Ramsgate Our Shop

Our Shop Margate

51 High Street, open Tuesday – Saturday, 10am to 3pm.

Our Shop Ramsgate

The Ramsgate base is at St George’s Church Hall in Broad Street and is  open from 10am to 3pm, Tuesday to Saturday.

Register

To register for the food club pop to one of the sites or contact the Our Kitchen on the Isle of Thanet facebook page.

20 Comments

  1. These are not real foodbanks as you have to pay for food at ‘Our Shop food clubs’ and now the ‘Margate Independent Foodbank’. The title is misleading for the MIF. Prices at these establishments are rising and the choice of food is diminishing. But, it is not surprising really because food put into many supermarket collection bins is collected by ‘Fareshare’ who are out of the Thanet area, the nearest being in Ashford. They are also take food from supermarkets which are short dated. Fareshare then charge these food clubs an amount per tray of food to be delivered back to Thanet. By the time customers are buying this food it can be on it’s last use by date or beyond it’s best before date. People might not be aware that this is how it works and think by putting items in the local supermarket collection bin that it is going direct to foodbanks to help local people, when in most cases it isn’t. It would be a lot better if the supermarkets distributed unwanted and donated food directly to the local and church foodbanks where it gets sorted and distributed to local people in need at no cost involved to them.

    • I think you are wrong on some of that. I used to volunteer at the MIF when it was at the church by Morrison’s. Most of the Fareshare Food came in prepacked trays if 24, 36 etc as it does for the big grocers. Most was tinnned and reasonably dated. Can’t speak for the foods you put into bins at the local supermarkets but think most do go to local charities and possibly Fareshare pick it up and redistributed some, but most came in bulk from Tesco’s etc, regionally, vacuum sealed in cardboard trays, just as the stores get it. Yes the Foodbank did buy surplus product in through Fareshare but a very cheap prices as it was surplus.

  2. Get rid of food banks. If people want the extra £20 make them work for it. Plenty of streets need Weeding and cleaning. The beaches are filthy care homes need cleaners and cooks. Why should we subsidise peoples lìfestyle when they can earn it by getting out of bed in the morning

  3. Our kitchen is NOT a food bank ,fred , we sell food at less than half the prices of supermarkets . Many of our customers are working or relying on a basic state pension. I agree let’s get rid of all food banks by giving people a chance to a well paid job rather than zero contract crap jobs and decent benefits for those who are struggling at the moment to survive and feed themselves and their families.

    • Mr Lewis – They are not struggling to have Smart Phones, smoking cigarettes and cans of beer in hand as I saw on Friday in Cecil Square. I have no problem whatsoever with genuine cases of hardship but I do wonder. As for ‘crap’ jobs as you so delicately put it, it’s better than no job, especially in the eyes of my nephew!! He holds his head up as he is working by choice.

      • And the dropouts who are just playing the game and people like you fall for it. Make them work for benefits if they don’t turn up they don’t get obviously there are genuine people who need help but plenty who don’t.

  4. Well done to Sharon Goodyer and her team. People at the bottom of the wealth pyramid are squeezed more and more while the supper rich hoard more and more money, money they can never spend. Why do we allow this?

    • I walked past there recently, and the only “bottom” I saw were the extremely large ones of most of the people queueing! Now, I don’t doubt that there are some genuine cases of hardship (and they deserve a helping hand), but the majority of the ones I saw were clearly a very long way from starving.

      • I should perhaps add that I often contribute to food banks when in my local supermarket – usually cheap but nutritious food such as tinned sardines, pease pudding, pork luncheon meat, etc.

  5. When the Tories took power in 2010, there were about 65,000 visits to UK food banks; in 2020-21, there were 2.5 million visits.
    One can rightfully assume most users were not feckless or improperly using the service.
    It’s not a coincidence that food bank visits have skyrocketed under the Conservatives.
    The Tories care not a whit about the poor, disabled and lower working classes in the UK.
    The Tories are about money , power, and continuing their eternal incestuous dance with the business world.
    If you don’t have a measure of political power you mean nothing to the ideological driven Tories.
    Angela Rayner was incorrect about the Tories being ‘ scum’.
    Politically sociopathic, yes; scum, no.

  6. Canadian or not, he is simply pointing out a fact: under the tories, use of food banks has shot up.
    Here’s another fact or two: under this government, the very rich have got even richer, and the poor much poorer.

      • Oh, and under this government THIS formerly poor person has become a bit better off than before. The opportunities are obviously out there if you grab ’em.

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