CHARITIES are joining forces to help make life easier for struggling families in Stratford this summer.
Stratford Foodbank has been working with community groups including the uniform bank, the baby bank, the Caterpillar Cafe and Churches Together, to ensure families facing hardship are supported during the school holidays.
It is believed the roll out of Universal Credit – the new system which combines benefit payments – is to blame for an increase in families forced to rely on handouts.
Recent figures show the number of people in Stratford relying on the foodbank – compared to 12 months ago – has doubled, and the number of children receiving parcels has rocketed by over 80 per cent to 117 in the past year.
And fears the school holidays could see youngsters go hungry and put other financial strains on parents, have prompted voluntary organisations to take action.
The organisations will be hosting extra events and opportunities to help ensure the wellbeing of children and families over the summer.
Foodbank manager Marion Homer said: “The increasing demand for our service continues to be a major concern. In a seemingly prosperous town like Stratford there are many families who do not have enough money to cover the basics – this is totally unacceptable.
“In 2017 we saw Universal Credit roll out in Stratford, this was accompanied by an increase in foodbank demand by 57 per cent. Two years on and we are still seeing a staggering rise in need.
“Many families in receipt of Universal Credit have one or both partners in employment, but wages are simply not covering the basics of family life. We believe that advance payments, the loans offered by the Department of Work and Pensions during the five weeks wait for Universal Credit, are pushing many local families into hardship.
“Unfortunately we know there is potential for this situation to worsen during the school holidays. We see a rise in demand at the end of the summer as families prepare for what can be a costly time preparing for the new school year. That is why we are partnering with organisations in town who provide additional support to families, to ensure we are signposting effectively to them.”
Events and organisations include:
‘Make Lunch Club’ which will provide free meals every Monday and Thursday during the school holidays at the United Reformed Church on Rother Street. Email Linda Horrocks email@example.com for more information.
The Caterpillar Cafe provides food and activities every Friday at Tyler House on Tyler Street for £2 per session.
Over summer it will also provide food parcels including fresh fruit and vegetables to those who have been referred by a GP or health worker. Search Caterpillar Cafe on Facebook for more details.
Stratford’s Little Bird Baby Bank donates items for babies, children and parents to those who have been referred and will be hosting exchange events. Search SUA little bird baby bank on Facebook for more details.
Stratford Uniform Bank provides donated uniform from schools across the district to those in need. Search SUA Uniform Bank on Facebook for more details.
The foodbank is also planning to host community eating events alongside St Gregory’s Church in Welcombe Road and Stratford Methodist Church in Old Town. Search Stratford upon Avon Foodbank on Facebook for updates.