FOODBANK use in the city has increased by nearly a quarter, figures have shown, as a Salisbury charity calls for government to cut the six-week wait for Universal Credit.

The Trussell Trust revealed that foodbank demand in the South West increased by 11 per cent, from 45,714 emergency food parcels being given out in April to September 2016, compared to 50,606 in the same period this year.

But in Salisbury demand has increased by more than twice the regional average, by 23.7 per cent.

In April to September 2016 1,502 three-day emergency food supplies were given to local people in crisis, 510 of these to children, compared to 1,214 supplies the year before.

Salisbury Foodbank manager Lucy Duffy said the increase was “really worrying”.

“Every week, people are referred to us after something unavoidable – like illness, a delayed benefit payment or an unexpected bill – means there’s no money for food,” she said.

Nationally, between April 1 and September 30 this year, The Trussell Trust’s foodbank network distributed 586,907 three-day emergency food supplies to people in crisis compared to 519,342 during the same period last year.

The charity is concerned the situation will worsen in the run-up to Christmas, when demand for food traditionally spikes, and the number of foodbanks in areas of full Universal Credit service will triple.

Research shows areas of full Universal Credit rollout for six months or more have seen a 30 per cent average increase in foodbank use, compared to 12 per cent in areas not receiving Universal Credit.

The charity is calling for the six-week wait for the first payment of Universal Credit to be reduced, as well as better administration around the application process, and all previous benefit payments to run on until Universal Credit payments start.

Mark Ward, interim chief executive at The Trussell Trust, said: “Our network is working hard to stop people going hungry but the simple truth is that even with the enormous generosity of our donors and volunteers, we’re concerned foodbanks could struggle to meet demand this winter if critical changes to benefit delivery aren’t made now.

“People cannot be left for weeks without any income, and when that income does come, it must keep pace with living costs – foodbanks cannot be relied upon to pick up the pieces.

“Without urgent action from policy-makers and even more generous practical support from the public, we don’t know how foodbanks are going to stop families and children going hungry this Christmas.”