Food bank stories

Clara’s story

'Food bank was a life-saver, honestly. They gave me hope when I had lost all hope.'

Clara is a single lady in her 50s who was employed full-time until she became unwell. After being refused disability benefit Employment Support Allowance, she was told to apply for Universal Credit. Clara waited six weeks for first payment and had to take a £100 Advance. By this time, Clara was facing mounting service charge and fuel debts, and didn’t have enough money for food. Clara’s jobcentre work coach signposted her to Wandsworth Foodbank.

Our Foodbank Adviser, Sylwia, successfully challenged the ESA decision, resulting in the DWP back-dating seven months’ payments to clear the service charge debt, and paying Clara an additional amount of Universal Credit. Sylwia also applied for a charity grant, which cleared Clara’s fuel debt. Clara says:

‘I just needed a bit of support to get back on my feet, but that five-week wait for Universal Credit was too long – I felt like I was sinking. I was already suffering from stress, and the system was making me more stressed. I was close to taking my life, it was so bad.

‘They made me feel I was another person trying to scrounge off the government, even though I’ve paid in all my life – I’ve worked since I was 16. I was getting £67 Universal Credit a week, because they took some out to repay the Advance. How they think people can get by on the small amount of money they provide, I don’t know. You’ve got bills to pay, food to buy. I started visiting friends when they’d be having dinner, hoping they’d invite me to eat with them because I had no food at home.

‘Food bank was a life-saver, honestly. They gave me hope when I had lost all hope. It’s not just the food but the all-round care. I remember standing at their door crying, because things had dropped so low. But the food bank was a safe and welcoming place, and Sylwia fought for me to get the help I needed. Things are so much better now. I’m looking for a part- time job until I get my health back and can work full-time again.’

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