THE city’s foodbank manager is appealing for more donations as the service faces the prospect of its busiest ever Christmas period after seeing the number of users rise by nearly 20 per cent.

Worcester Foodbank has once again launched its Reverse Advent Calendar scheme, which urges people to donate an item of food every day over the festive period to help feed those in need.

Grahame Lucas, foodbank manager, said he believes the 18 per cent rise is down to an increase in people in low income jobs, as well as “continuing issues with benefits, partly to do with Universal Credit (UC)”.

“The low-income issue we think is two-fold,” he said. “There’s good news – unemployment is reducing in Worcester, but my fear is it is reducing as a result of low income jobs, minimum wage and low hours.

“But it’s also partly to do with low level of benefits as a result of the allowance freeze, which means benefits are not sufficient to prevent people staying out of crisis,” said Mr Lucas.

The Local Government Association has called for this month’s Autumn Budget to lift the freeze on Local Housing Allowance, which is currently set to be capped at the 2016/17 level for the next four years.

LHA is paid to low-income families in the private rented sector to help them cope with high housing costs.

The official UC roll out in Worcester is next summer, though Mr Lucas said some users of the city’s foodbank have already been moved onto the new system and they are seeing the impact.

“It’s about delays, which we’re experiencing in the old and new system, leaving people without money to put food on the table,” he said.

“Across the country we know that in areas where UC has already been fully rolled out, increases in demand at foodbanks is something like 30 per cent.”

Mr Lucas said over the last 12 months, the foodbank has provided more than 60,000 meals but if the rise mirrors other parts of the UK, from next summer it could be 70,000.

“It’s a very scary prospect,” he said. “The people of Worcester have been amazing in their generosity, but we can’t expect miracles. We will not be able to sustain it.”

Despite the potential difficulty, Mr Lucas said: “We are already planning to be able to tackle that, because our fear is the generosity could plateau. We are trying to reach as many people as we can.”

As well as the Reverse Advent Calendar appeal, the foodbank is also increasing its visits to supermarkets, as well as conducting more special collections.

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