FOODBANK usage in Malvern has risen by more than 50 per cent in the last year.

Peter Buchanan, chairman of Malvern Hills Foodbank was responding to a new report from the Trussell Trust which said it had recorded its busiest ever six-month period, with more than a third of food parcels going to children.

Mr Buchanan said: "The picture in Malvern more or less reflects the national one.

"Looking at the last four months, and comparing that with the same period in 2018, the number of vouchers and people referred to the foodbank has risen by more than 50 per cent.

"That is an amazing increase. If it were over a single month you would say that's a blip but when you take it over a year you see that the Trust's findings are quite right that people are getting into serious trouble.

"It can be for a number of reasons, but going into universal credit and changing from getting your money weekly in advance to getting it monthly in arrears is proving to be significant.

"We have found that as people have become more aware of foodbanks, the generosity of the people of Malvern has tended to keep pace with the demand."

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The new Trussell Trust report said that it has recorded its busiest ever six month period, with more than a third of its emergency parcels going to children.

During those six months, 823,145 three-day emergency food parcels were given to people in crisis in the UK, with more than a third of these (301,653) going to children.

The charity said this is a 23 per cent increase on the same period in 2018 - the sharpest rate of increase the charity has seen for the past five years.

It said the main reasons for people needing emergency food are low benefit income (36 per cent), and delays (18 per cent) or changes (16 per cent) to benefits being paid.

One of the key issues people at food banks face is the five week wait for a first Universal Credit payment, the charity said.

It added that although Universal Credit is not the only benefit payment people at food banks experience problems with, the majority (65 per cent) of food bank referrals made in April - September 2019 due to a delay in benefits being paid in the UK were linked to Universal Credit.

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Trussell Trust chief executive Emma Revie said: "Our benefits system is supposed to protect us all from being swept into poverty, but currently thousands of women, men and children are not receiving sufficient protection from destitution.

"This is not right. But we know this situation can be fixed - our benefits system could be the key to unlocking people from poverty.

"This General Election, all political parties must pledge to protect people from hunger by ensuring everyone has enough money for the basics.

"We want our next government to start working towards a future where no one needs a food bank by ending the five week wait for Universal Credit; ensuring benefit payments cover the cost of living; and investing in local emergency support for people in crisis.

"Together, these three changes will put money back into the pockets of people who most need our support. It's in our power as a country to end the need for food banks. This can change."