Manchester Central Foodbank has today sent a letter to the Chancellor Rishi Sunak setting out its experience of rising food insecurity in the city, asking him to commit to “Keeping the Lifeline”.
The food bank urges the Chancellor not to cut £1,040 per year from the incomes of over 330,000 households in Greater Manchester by removing the current uplift of £20 per week on Universal Credit and Working Tax Credits and asks him to extend the uplift to recipients of Employment and Support Allowance, Income Support, and Job Seekers Allowance.
The foodbank also would like to urge all residents of Greater Manchester to get involved in the campaign by completing this online petition from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and by contacting their MPs by post, telephone, email or on social media to encourage them to publicly support the “Keep the Lifeline” campaign and protect hundreds of thousands of people in Greater Manchester.
Particularly in areas with government MPs and high numbers of recipients of this uplift who will be made £1,000 poorer next year, those MPs will have a direct line to the Chancellor and the voices of their constituencies will be heard very loud in Westminster. In Bolton North East 43% of working age households will be impacted by the cut, while in Heywood and Middleton, Bury South, and Bury North the figures are 41%, 35%, and 31%. Constituents in these areas can have a strong impact on changing this government policy.
Readers can find out more about the #KeepTheLifeline campaign on Twitter, read the letter from 50 national charities here, and see in-depth statistics in this report from the Resolution Foundation.
The full text of the letter reads:
At the beginning of the pandemic you made a positive decision to help support over three hundred and thirty thousand households across Greater Manchester by announcing a temporary increase of £20 per week to the standard allowance of Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit. 
We would like to outline to you the unprecedented increases in need for foodbank support we have experienced in Manchester in recent months, some of the experiences of individuals who have used our service recently, and join over 50 national charities in urging you to “Keep The Lifeline” and make the £20 uplift permanent and to extend this to recipients of ESA, Income Support, and JSA.
In the three constituencies which we mainly support, Manchester Central, Manchester Gorton, and Blackley and Broughton, forty-six percent of working-age households are recipients of UC or WTC and have therefore benefitted from the uplift in recent months. 
Despite this additional financial support, we have nevertheless seen a drastic rise in poverty and food emergency in our city in recent months as the number of people we have supported since the beginning of lockdown on 23rd March has trebled compared to the same period last year with us providing 3-day food parcels to 4,707 people.
The economic effects of the shutdown are particularly apparent when we review the causes of crisis, with 44% of all referrals now because of generally insufficient personal income, rather than an issue around obtaining correct benefits or support for a specific cause of financial emergency. Foodbank users falling into this category have increased by 245% compared to last year.
Huge numbers of people who have never previously had to rely on charitable support have found that their income from employment and benefits, even with the uplift, is not enough to meet the bare essentials of subsistence. The recent testimonies of our clients attest to how essential it is to protect the incomes of people on Universal Credit and Working Tax Credits:
“[I have] worked all my life but now on a zero-hour contract and am not receiving enough hours of work: one hour in three weeks! I’ve raised my kids but now I need help”
“[I am] still working but less working hours given – after paying some bills there’s no money left for anything else”
“My husband lost his job as company went into administration. We are struggling to pay bills as well as keep children clothed and fed”
In our experience, families in Manchester have been disproportionately impacted compared to single persons. While the number of adults using our service has risen by 170% to 2,825, the number of children has risen by 250%, to 1,882. Of those accessing the foodbank because of insufficient income, 45% of those supported are now children, compared to one-third last year.
Average incomes of the poorest working-age homes had fallen by five percent in the two years before the pandemic and the basic level of support (£73 per week) was less than half that of the absolute poverty
line.  Despite the uplift, almost two-thirds of households on UC or WTC have run up debts in recent months and over one third have relied on charities for food or clothing. 
To remove this uplift in April would reduce household incomes by £1,040 per year and see support for the unemployed fall to its lowest real-terms level for almost thirty years at a time of rising joblessness and economic uncertainty. 
As we know that lockdown measures and cases of Covid-19 are disproportionately more common in the most deprived areas the concentration of this huge reduction in income within specific local and neighbourhood economies will exacerbate the existing devastating impacts upon jobs, businesses, and amenities in areas that need financial support from government the most. 
Thanks to the rallying-round of our local community through the unprecedented generosity of donors and hard work of volunteers and staff, we have so far been able to keep up with the increasing demand for food support. Foodbanks and similar charities should not, and possibly will not be able to, pick up for the failure of the state to ensure that every household, individual, and family is able to attain the basic necessities needed to live.
We therefore urge you to make permanent and extend the existing uplift as an essential part of the ongoing recovery and stimulus measures.
Staff and trustees of Manchester Central Foodbank
 “Potential £1,040 income falls by constituency,” Resolution Foundation: [https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1O86vbUEYhr8YNJ7R64nEl0B_0hhA8AWL7GYkUltAjik/]
 “Death by £1000 Cuts?” Resolution Foundation, 2nd October, 2020: [https://www.resolutionfoundation.org/publications/death-by-1000-cuts/]
 “Living standards for UK’s poorest plunge during pandemic,” The Guardian, 8th October, 2020: [https://www.theguardian.com/society/2020/oct/08/living-standards-for-uks-poorest-plunge-during-pandemic]
 “Poorest areas of England four times as likely to face lockdown as richest,” The Guardian, 7th October, 2020: [https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/oct/07/poorest-areas-of-england-four-times-as-likely-to-face-lockdown-as-richest]