WOKING Foodbank is “on a cliff edge” as the cost-of-living crisis begins to bite.

Project co-ordinator Alison Buckland’s stark assessment of the outlook for the charity comes with inflation running at a 30-year high and the Bank of England warning that it could hit double figures before the end of the year.

“It’s the feeling that a lot of people are just about managing,” Alison said. “They’ve got through the pandemic perhaps on some savings, or with loans, or with help from friends and family, but things are getting more difficult still.

“We’re not the only charity to have this impression, that increasing numbers just won’t be able to cope any more.

“There’s that feeling that it won’t take much. We’re on a cliff edge.

“We’re seeing an increase in demand and are approaching the time of year when donations are historically lower.

“The autumn and winter are bumper months for donations, especially Christmas. Then it slackens off as people start to think more about summer holidays.

“We always welcome extra donations at this time of year and the shopping list of preferred items on our website is updated weekly.

 “Overall, though, we’re still doing well with our donations, our problem is more on the other side, that we’ll see a significant increase in demand for our services.

“Even now we are seeing an increase in people being referred to the foodbank for the first time and the predicted cost of living rises are going to affect people locally.”

One of the biggest drivers of demand for the foodbank’s support is likely to be the sharp rise in energy prices, which has prompted the foodbank to explore a relationship with Fuel Bank Foundation to help those struggling to pay their bills.

“Fuel Bank help will be given by our support worker as she chats to our visitors during the usual follow-up with people who have been referred to the foodbank,” Alison said. “If we feel a referral to Fuel Bank is the right way forward then we’ll do that.

“We also have to be sensitive to the fact that we are, first and foremost, a foodbank, and that’s the basis on which many people donate to us.”

Fuel Bank Foundation was set up to support homes in fuel crisis, and since its launch as an independent charity five years ago has helped more than half a million people.

Matt Cole, who heads up the charity, said: “I don’t like the term fuel poverty, we say fuel crisis, because when you haven’t got enough money to cook food or keep the light’s on, that’s a crisis.

“We work by referral from our partners, including foodbanks, and our approach is to help people get out of this position by offering as much advice as we can.

“If people are in ‘crisis need’ we provide a top-up for pre-payment meters, which delivers about two weeks’ worth of fuel.

“But we don’t want dependents, we want to give people the tools to solve their problem if possible.

“We rarely see people more than twice, but that said our latest figures show an increase of 75 per cent year-on-year of those using our services.  It’s on an upward curve.

“This is the enormity of the challenge that is facing families. The winter will be horrendous for many, many people.”

Alison is preparing to meet those challenges by the foodbank buying a larger van, ideally an electric one.

A target of £25,000 has been set and the fundraising appeal is under way.

“Financial donations can be made to the foodbank at any time and marked specifically for the van. We’re going to do the same on the website and give people the option when they donate,” Alison said.

 “Our present one has been a great servant but it’s just too small now for all the food we’re delivering. It’s often overloaded.”* FOR more information or to donate, visit www.woking.foodbank.org.uk, email [email protected] or call 07896 077 760. Or visit www.fuelbankfoundation.org.