The Salvation Army says the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic is pushing those in poverty to the “tipping point”.
A survey of UK Salvation Army corps (church and community centres) during one week in April revealed a 63 per cent surge in households given food support compared to February.
It also found ten of the busiest corps recorded a 174 per cent increase in households being provided with food support.
Major Ian Payne from The Salvation Army has been coordinating food distribution in Chatham for ten weeks.
He told Premier the food distribution operation has increasingly got busier since the lockdown.
“It’s not just homeless or those who are struggling with benefits, but those who have worked, who are now not working because of zero hours, or because there’s no work for them.
“And they are feeling slightly embarrassed to come and ask, but they come in. So we are seeing an uptake in different types of people.”
This comes ahead of an expected announcement by the Chancellor on Friday around changes to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, which is widely anticipated could signal further job losses among people currently furloughed and having their wages paid by the Treasury.
The Salvation Army’s leader in the UK and Ireland, Commissioner Anthony Cotterill said: “It’s years since we have seen poverty to be such a real and present danger for so many people.
“We really welcome the initial action the government has taken to support income through the furlough scheme, but we are worried that the communities we work in will be reeling from the economic fall out for many years.
“We are approaching a poverty tipping point. Our immediate focus is scaling up our provision to get food and support to people who need it now, from families unable to pay utility bills to rough sleepers struggling to feed themselves.”
To meet the need, The Salvation Army has opened large scale food distribution hubs across the country to bulk buy essential food for an initial supply of around 22,000 basic food parcels.