Foodbanks and councillors from East Lancashire’s most deprived areas have spoken out about the worrying increase in the cost of living – and what this will mean for the region’s poorest.

Authorities and organisations out of these areas have warned of a “real systemic poverty issue” arising as inflation grows and the cost of living begins to soar.

According to Government data, Blackburn with Darwen, Burnley, Pendle and Hyndburn are among Lancashire's most deprived areas with over 15 per cent of the population in each area listed as ‘income deprived’.

The latest Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures (from September 2019) looks at levels of income deprivation in towns and cities across 316 local authorities.

The figures are based on the proportion of people in an area who are out of work or on low earnings.

According to the findings Blackburn with Darwen is listed as the 10th most income-deprived in the UK and the most income-deprived in East Lancashire.

A huge 21.2 per cent of the population was income deprived in 2019.

Trussell Trust figures found the use of their food banks has risen by 17% in the region, between 2020 to 2021.

Last year, 6,434 emergency food parcels were handed out in Blackburn with Darwen by the charity between April and September.

This was up from 5,481 during the same period in 2020, and above the 5,221 handed out in 2019.

Blackburn with Darwen councillor and Executive Member for Adults and Health, Mustafa Desai, said: “We know that some residents are worried about the anticipated increase in the cost of living.

“The council has a history of supporting local people who are in the greatest need dating back to well before the pandemic, and the last two years have really seen us step up our efforts in this area.

“Our Help Hub, established in March 2020 in urgent response to the first lockdown, has seen us strengthen our partnership working with a range of local agencies, including food banks, credit unions, and voluntary sector partners.

“Almost two years on, these partnerships still exist and as such the Help Hub can provide a holistic service to anyone who contact us for support.

“As well as helping with access to food for people in the greatest need, our staff also work with residents to help with training and employment to move forward in life, and with budgeting and money advice to help people make their money go further.”

Cllr Vicky McGurk, Executive Member for Finance, said: “Winter is a difficult time for many of us, as we use more gas and electric to heat our homes and inevitably mount up bigger bills.

“We recently launched the Household Support Scheme to help families with their utility bills, as well as other essentials to help keep people warm over winter including boiler servicing and repairs.

“This help is not just available to households in receipt of benefits, and I would urge anyone who is struggling this winter to check out the criteria on the council website. We’re here to help.”

A spokesperson for a Burnley foodbank said they have noticed a “considerable” increase in people coming to them in the last year.

The town is currently ranked as the 13 most deprived in England with one in five people (20.3 per cent) sitting on or below the breadline.

Phil Jones, a representative of Burnley Together’s food bank, Burnley FC in the Community Kitchen which is in Charter Walk Shopping Centre, said: “There’s been a considerable uptake over the last 12 to 18 months.

“We do get families who contact us 2-3 weeks into the pay month, so you know that mum and dad are going without food so the kids can eat.

“There are real systemic poverty issues now.”

Jones said that Burnley Together had gone from giving out 20 emergency food packages a month to giving out over 200 a week.

The price of food has also been an issue, with the cost of supply for Burnley Together and other food banks also increasing.

The Hyndburn district is listed as the 34th most income-deprived in England with near one fifth of the population (18.2 per cent) listed as out of work or on low income.

A new style of foodbank recently opened in Accrington in order to tackle poverty in the area.

Lancashire Telegraph: The Hyndburn Food Bank Food Pantry (Photo: Stacy Walsh)The Hyndburn Food Bank Food Pantry (Photo: Stacy Walsh)

The Hyndburn Food Bank Food Pantry, at 27 Broadway, allows those in need to choose food and items for themselves instead of receiving a pre-packed parcel.

Stacy Walsh, organiser of the Hyndburn Food Pantry, said: “During Covid, I was asked to work with the council to help them set up a scheme to deliver food parcels and co-ordinate all the food banks in Hyndburn.

“We recognised that there are people who are slipping through the net – there might be people who need foodbanks but might not use them.

“After speaking to people, it just showed that there is a massive need for something like this as people had been furloughed, made redundant, had to move back home with their parents.”

16.8 per cent of the Pendle population is listed as income deprived making it 46th in the ONS list.

Wendy Hall, head of the Salvation Army food bank in Nelson, said: “The people who use the foodbank are from all ages and backgrounds.

“We rely on the generous donations of the public and local supermarkets. We are always in need of non-perishable foods.”

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