'It feels like there's a storm coming' – Burnley foodbank manager fearful demand for service is only going to grow
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Sean Danaher, who runs the Burnley FC in the Community Kitchen and Foodbank, has seen the number of food parcels delivered to vulnerable people rocket since the turn of the year. And he's concerned these figures could continue to soar.
Removal of the Universal Credit uplift, rising energy prices, the cost of shopping; all these factors are placing real financial pressure on some families as the country heads into winter.
Sean wants these families to know they're not alone.
"I'm at a little bit of a loss really [as to why the problem has worsened]. It really spiked after the first lockdown. There was a lot of confusion, and people couldn't go to supermarkets, or didn't want to, so people used our service.
"It started to even out but then over the past few weeks, it's not been exponential, just a real steady growth. I don't know if it's with furlough winding down, or jobs perhaps not being there; people in employment who used to have 16 hours a week, but now they only have eight hours a week. We don't know. We've just seen these numbers creep up and creep up. We've had some weeks where we've sent out food to feed 500 people."
Since the turn of the year, the foodbank, working alongside community hub Burnley Together, has distributed more than 5,879 parcels, providing enough food for 13,422 people. 4,767 of these were children.
"Since November we've seen it double effectively," said Sean. "From 90 parcels a week, now we're averaging 170/180 parcels a week. So the demand has gone up 100%. We've never said 'no' to anybody. We have always met that demand, and we will continue to do so thanks to all the people and businesses who donate to us."
And with the cost of living increasing, demand looks set to follow.
"We're looking at the end of furlough, we're looking at Universal Credit, we're looking at National Insurance and it does just feel like the tide is going out this month. And I don't know what happens next month...I think we're all just finger in the air at the minute.
"We're gearing up though as if it's going to be really busy.
"People will live to their means, and yes [Universal Credit] was meant to be temporary, but you know, there's perhaps people who maybe aren't following the news.
"What we do see is people leading chaotic lives where there won't be budgeting, there won't be financial advice on offer, there won't be people factoring in what might be a reduction in incomings. So we know it's going to bite. We know it's going to hit people in the pocket.
"It might not be that people don't have money for food, maybe people need that money for elsewhere. There is no gas or electric bank. And that's where we can help. If people have to make that choice, and what an awful, heartbreaking decision to have to make [choosing between eating and heating], then we can help with the food.
"And that £22 can go in the meter, it can go on the card down at the shop. Wherever it needs to go; as long as they know they don't have to make a decision between being warm and being hungry."
Sean said he just wants people to know that the foodbank is there. And that they can help.
"We can't look at other people's lives through the lens of our own. We never know what is happening behind closed doors, or what a person's circumstances are.
"We need to try and put ourselves in other people's shoes sometimes.
"This could be happening close to home. It could be a friend, it could be a neighbour, a colleague that isn't that far away from needing our service. And that could be something as simple as a washing machine breaking or an exhaust going on the car, a reduction in hours, furlough, cost of food, cost of childcare going up. It could be anything.
"When you need us though. We will be there. That is what we are here for."