Rise in food bank visitors referred by Kingston JobCentre

Surrey Comet: Kingston food bank volunteers Clifford Littleworth, Marion Thorpe, Chris Steer, Mary Butlin, Isobel Robinson and Peter Tonks. Kingston food bank volunteers Clifford Littleworth, Marion Thorpe, Chris Steer, Mary Butlin, Isobel Robinson and Peter Tonks.

More than half of all Kingston food bank vouchers issued by JobCentre Plus over two years were used in the last three months.

Organisers said there had been a “dramatic rise” in the number of people showing up because of benefit delays and sanctions.

Organiser Paul Pickhaver said: “We are also hearing from people who simply can’t manage on the levels of benefit with rising costs and debts.”

Kingston Council leader Councillor Liz Green said: “I think [benefit changes] hit some people particularly hard and unfairly.

“We are working with the Citizens Advice Bureau to go to all the people affected by welfare reform and say, ‘This is how you’re affected, let’s work with you to talk about how you manage this.’

“Some of the work that we are doing has helped some people and some families.”

But months after a key report on hunger in the capital was published, titled ‘A Zero-Hunger City’, councils have “a lot more” to do to help vulnerable residents, a London Assembly member has said.

Members met for an update in November.

Liberal Democrat assembly member Stephen Knight said after the meeting: “There is a lot more that needs to be done in terms of joining up all the support and help.

“You have got a huge growth in people turning to charity food parcels just to live.”

'Public health emergency'

The Times newspaper reported this week that unpublished police figures showed forces reporting first-time arrests of people stealing basic food.

Crime figures for Kingston show a small drop in shoplifting, from 969 in 2007/8 before the recession hit, to 950 last year.

But nationally, there were about 18,000 more thefts from shops last year than in 2007/8, according to the British Crime Survey.

Doctors and academics wrote to the British Medical Journal this week after the Department for Work and Pensions’ delayed publishing government research on the rise in emergency food aid.

They said hunger levels around the country could constitute a “public health emergency”.

Surrey Comet: Southfields residents are unhappy with a proposal to move Job Centre Plus from Wandsworth Town to their town

Unemployment figures

Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures show Kingston’s unemployment rate – 1.5 percent of the population – to be the second-lowest in London, after Richmond.

In October, 914 men and 775 women claimed Jobseeker’s Allowance, a total of 318 fewer than during last October.

Kingston Council figures showed that in June Norbiton had the highest rate of claims, while Surbiton Hill had the lowest.

Have you been affected by changes to your benefits, or had to visit Kingston food bank for another reason?

Call the newsdesk on 020 8744 4273 or email jon.sharman@london.newsquest.co.uk.

 

TODAY'S HEADLINES IN KINGSTON UPON THAMES

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