STROUD’S foodbank has been selected as one of only six in the country to take part in a pioneering new pilot scheme which will see clients offered debt and money advice in addition to regular services.
The Trussell Trust, which runs more than 420 foodbanks across the UK, including the one in Stroud, is launching the trial scheme in response to what it describes as an ‘alarming increase’ in the number of people being referred to foodbanks in severe financial difficulty.
It is hoped the scheme could revolutionise the way the UK’s leading food charity works, with its foodbanks partnering with local authorities along with debt and money-management charities to provide instant financial help to clients in urgent need of assistance.
Will Mansell, the project manager at Stroud District Foodbank, the umbrella organisation which runs centres in Stroud, Stonehouse, Nailsworth, Dursley and Wotton Under Edge, welcomed the chance to participate in the pilot scheme.
“It is really great to be selected,” he said. “It shows the Trussell Trust think we are doing a god job and it is nice to be at the forefront of this.”
“We are there to give people breathing space during a crisis but under the pilot we want to do more by working with local partners to give our clients the long-term financial support that they need.
“There is the potential to have debt and money management charities at the foodbank but what we will be doing is trying to work out the best way to get debt advice and support out to families across the whole of the district.
“The idea is that if we can make early interventions and can get clients to see someone locally who can help them with their money problems then we can really get to the bottom of the issue rather than allowing it to fester on.”
The pilot, which is being part-funded by a six-figure personal donation from the Money Saving Expert Martin Lewis, comes as new research shows that more than one in ten UK families have taken out a pay day loan to make ends meet in the last year (12 per cent) and roughly a quarter of UK families have fallen into debt in order to be able to provide basic necessities for their families.
Mr Mansell said volunteers in Stroud were themselves aware of clients who had sought help after getting ‘sucked into a cycle of debt as a result of using pay-day lenders’.
David McAuley, the Trussell Trust’s chief executive, said: “By introducing a ‘financial triage’ service in foodbanks, where clients are able to connect with free financial and debt advice, people will be given professional help to manage tight finances, avoid pay day lenders and structure debt to prevent the situation from getting worse.”
The pilot scheme, which will initially be launched at six Trussell Trust foodbanks in different regions of the UK, is due to start next month.