THE TOWN’S food bank is preparing for a rise in demand triggered by the universal credit rollout as its Christmas campaign swings into action.

In February hundreds of Bracknell residents will be switched to the new benefit, which combines six income-related payments into one monthly sum.

A study by Southwark and Croydon councils, which have trialled universal credit, found the six week waiting period claimants must endure before receiving their first payment had pushed many into rent arrears and towards food banks.

One south London food bank reported an increase in referrals of 97 per cent.

“We are expecting a big increase in demand,” explained Claire Mather, assistant manager at Kerith Community Church food bank.

“We are expecting universal credit to make a big difference. We have a couple of people who have already been switched over. It is something we are preparing for.”

While more people are expecting to use the Church Road facilities, the generosity of donators and volunteers in Bracknell means they are not likely to leave empty handed.

Mrs Mather continued: “Luckily we have a lot of food at the moment. People are so generous. We also have a lot of volunteers ready to step in if it does get extra busy.

“I don’t want to dissuade people from donating though because we always need more donations.”

Since 2009 more than 60 volunteers have helped run the Bracknell Food Bank.

In Bracknell and Wokingham alone, more than 1,750 emergency food parcels were handed out last year.

In the weeks leading up to Christmas festive items are encouraged, as are donations to expand the operation’s storage capacity.

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