The manager of Berwick’s Citizen’s Advice Bureau (CAB) has warned that there are more and more people in the town with no money at all.
CAB manager Jennifer Hall puts the alarming increase down to “ongoing and relentless” changes to the benefits system, which have seen adults go hungry, and parents unable to feed their children.
In the eight months from September 2012 the Berwick bureau handed out food parcels on 35 occasions to 48 adults and 14 children.
Speaking to Berwick Town Council, Ms Hall said: “We are seeing more clients with no money at all, mostly because of the delays or problems with benefit processing or because their benefits have been ‘sanctioned’ for failing to meet a condition of their claim.”
She added: “Although we provide help where we can, the first, and all too often the only option, remains a food parcel.”
And with the introduction of Universal Credit - which Ms Hall says will prompt a further “tsunami” of changes - the situation could get even worse.
“The changes to the benefits system continues to cause confusion with those of working age and the elderly alike,” she said.
“People tell us they are unprepared for the changes which are proposed under Universal Credit and are not sure what impact it will have on their families.”
Ms Hall has also revealed the scale of debt problems in Berwick, with the CAB handling over £2.5million of debts for clients during 2012/13.
The largest amount of debt by value was in Berwick North; but the average debt per cleint was higher in Berwick Wasr with Ord.
“Many people are unable to service their debts due to circumstances mostly outside their control, such as ill health, job loss, or a cut in their working hours,” she said.