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Friday, 22 May 2015

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Homeless families in Cumbria surviving on instant noodles and microwave meals

HOMELESS families in Cumbria are surviving on instant noodles and £1 microwave meals as benefits changes begin to bite.

More than 2,000 people in Cumbria have turned to a service specifically set up in the wake of Government welfare reforms in its first nine months.

Some of the help being asked for includes paying for food, energy bills, and furniture, as well as benefits and debt advice, and leaving temporary accommodation.

Nearly half of those who contacted Cumbria County Council’s Welfare Assistance Scheme had problems with their benefits.

And 18 per cent had children under 18 while half were given financial help through the initiative.

Mark Lloyd, director of Sustainable Carlisle, works with homeless and hard-up families to help provide them with the skills to cook healthy, affordable meals for themselves.

He said many families struggling with welfare changes could only afford to live on a diet of Pot Noodles and ready meals.

“When people are in hardship the quality of the food they are eating is one of the first things to go out of the window,” he said.

One 20-year-old woman, who lives at the Water Street homeless shelter in Carlisle, told the News & Star: “I tend to rely on ready meals because they’re quick and easy and only cost £1. You can just put them in the microwave.

“I’ve been living in the hostel for two months now – it’s really hard at the moment.

“I have managed to recently get a job but I can’t find anywhere to live because nobody seems willing to take on young people like me.”

Cumbria County Council is now dishing out more than £60,000 to help those hit hardest by the welfare reforms.

The cash will be shared among six organisations throughout the county which work directly with hard-up families in crisis in a bid to make them more “financially resilient”.

Beth Furneaux, cabinet member for health and care services, said: “The figures for those who have contacted us speak for themselves – there are many people who are struggling financially.

“But these projects aren’t about just handing out cash or food – they’re designed to help people to help themselves.

“From growing their own food and financial planning to helping them live more active lifestyles, the projects will benefit those most in need.”

Sustainable Carlisle will get more than £9,000 for a new service giving families access to affordable and healthy food.

Mr Lloyd explained: “We will be cooking a weekly meal prepared by a qualified chef at the Water Street hostel.

“It will give people the skills to prepare food and cook for themselves on a limited budget.”

He added that every fourth week a meal would be cooked at other community settings in the city – giving even more people the chance to pick up the culinary skills.

There will also be advice on hand from other agencies, including the Credit Union and the Carlisle Alcohol and Drug Advisory Service.

The Water Street shelter resident added: “It’s really helpful because it gives me an idea of what I can cook for myself.”

Have your say

It's not just homeless & people on benefits that can't afford to eat. I work full time and am in the same boat.This government needs to raise the national minimum wage to meet the national living wage !!!!

Posted by Cath Dubka on 16 April 2014 at 22:04

I am a middle aged single parent with one teenage son. I work part time on minimum wage and get the benefits I am also entitled to yet cannot survive.
After my bills which does not include ANY form of credit ,just utilities and travel costs etc, every weekend we find ourselves without food or just stale bread etc. We dont live a comfy life, cannot afford clothes etc but it is getting harder and harder with everything getting more expensive.
He is desperate for new schools schoes and shirts but I really cannot afford to replace them.
I cannot increase my working hours as I have health problems. There is a trap that people like me fall into, single parents with just the one child, and earning. If I was to claim benefits I would actually be £5.73 a week better off. How can this be right?

Posted by Hard up on 16 April 2014 at 11:04

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