Food banks are facing a 'perfect storm' this winter as the cost of living soars

Food banks are facing a “perfect storm” this winter as the cost of living soars amid a Universal Credit reduction, the end of the furlough scheme and spiralling energy prices.

File photo dated 23/07/21 of empty shelves in the water aisle of the Tesco store at St Rollox in Glasgow. (PA/Andrew Milligan)

Services in Yorkshire have expressed their concerns over “exhausting” shortages and people having to choose between heating and eating as the colder months arrive.

The Government has faced pressure in recent weeks to delay or ditch the end of the £20-a-week Universal Credit uplift as bills look set to rise.

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Manager of the Bradford Central food bank, Josie Barlow, said the service was still running at double its pre-pandemic levels, and things would inevitably get worse as winter bites.

She told The Yorkshire Post: “In winter you’ve got a lot of things coming together to create a bit of a perfect storm.

“Every year in winter you always see a surge in food bank use.

“Then also all the fuel and electric bills going up this winter, that’s going to hit people harder, combined with the Universal Credit cut, combined with furlough ending.

“All of those things: it’s not looking great.”

Her sentiments were echoed by Alison Wise at the S6 food bank in Sheffield who said staff are “predicting a lot more” people through the door this year.

She explained that the team are “really worried” and “noticeably our stocks are much lower” than they were over the school summer holidays as supermarket shortages also begin to have an impact.

“We are really concerned”, she said. “It’s the combined impact as well around shortages.

“Shortages now in supermarkets are having a knock-on effect with us.”

Ms Wise described the fear of not knowing whether food would be available for children that people could now be facing when they look at the supermarket shelves as “just every day for our guests, that’s their reality.

“It’s exhausting.”

Yesterday, the chief executive of Ofgem warned that “well above” hundreds of thousands of customers could be left in limbo as energy suppliers go to the wall in the coming weeks.

Jonathan Brearly told a committee of MPs: “We do expect a large number of customers to be affected, we’ve already seen hundreds of thousands of customers affected, that may well go well above that.

“It’s very hard for me to put a figure on it.”

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng also said that plans are being made for gas prices to remain high for some time, in direct contradiction to the Prime Minister who suggested that the problem would be “temporary”.

He told the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee: “I think ‘temporary’ means that it’s a position where the price has spiked considerably… I think it has quadrupled in the last six months, seven months.

“You would expect normally that the price would revert to the mean, it’s not something that we think is going to be sustainable.

“But, of course, we have to prepare for longer-term high prices.”

Yesterday Avro Energy and Green Supplier Limited became the latest to announce their exit from the market. Ofgem said that it would ensure that a new supplier was appointed to take over Avro’s 580,000 customers and Green’s 255,000 households.