“I’ve been on this estate for 18 years but never knew what was happening in here”
We visited the Parson Cross Initiative at Mount Tabor Church in Sheffield one Friday morning, and spoke to eight people who have had cause to use the centre’s food bank. Lisa first came here when a benefit mistake reduced her income by more than a quarter.
I’ve been coming here since last year. I first came to use the food bank when they sorted my benefits out. Now they’re sorted I just come here to meet people. I’ve got depression so I want to get out of the house and I help out here if I can. It’s interesting and I enjoy it, so I come on Tuesdays and Fridays.
They had lost my DLA (Disability Living Allowance) details and when it went to PIP (Personal Independence Payments), my money went down. I get £220 a fortnight and I’m managing, but when they got it wrong it went down for a while to £160.
I had not had my gas on for two years, but since coming here and getting help with my benefits and things, I am able to put the gas on again. This place makes a big difference. They do not belittle you here, you don’t feel like it’s a bad thing. You always feel welcome and they’re giving real help as well. I do a course with Christians Against Poverty here on Friday mornings and that’s helping as well.
I came here because they wrongly took my income down. They resolved it and backdated the difference, but what brought me here was their mistake, changing the benefits. They alter everything and people get into difficult situations.
They need to stop messing with benefits and stop the freeze on benefits, and help people.
It was Citizens Advice who told me about this place when they were filling in my PIP form. They said there’s this place open on a Friday. I only live two minutes away and have been on this estate for 18 years but I never knew what was happening in here. It’s amazing to see people’s generosity. People donate to the food banks, even people who are not much better off financially are still willing to help others. I find that outstanding. It’s not just a church here; it’s a community place as well.
The bigger picture
Lisa was one of eight people we spoke to on a recent visit to the Parson Cross Initiative, which works with community groups and churches in its part of Sheffield to help meet local needs. The project grew from, and is based at, Mount Tabor Methodist Church. You can read the others here:
What would it mean for your church, or for the church as a whole, to become a church of the poor? We researched this in 2016, and published this report.
Lisa had struggled financially before, but it was a benefits mistake that tipped her into needing the food bank. For many, that is a familiar story. More often than anything else, it is benefit problems or delays that lead people to food banks.
The benefit freeze will increase difficulties for many people and families. Research by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation last year projected that the freeze would mean an extra 500,000 people being swept into poverty by 2020, but identified alternative Government actions that could protect families from that rising tide.
It’s impossible not to admire the work and compassion of projects such as Parson Cross Initiative, but ensuring that people have regular access to food cannot be left to charities. The End Hunger UK campaign, with which we are involved, identifies nine potential Government policies, all of which would help to reduce hunger and poverty, and all of which are based on the real experiences of people like Lisa. Please take a few moments to look at those nine ideas, to contact local groups working to alleviate poverty in your area, and to speak to your MP to ask them to help end hunger.