Sidmouth foodbank volunteers abused by passersby

Andie Milne in Sidmouth Food Bank. Ref shs 37 18TI 1386. Picture: Terry Ife

Andie Milne in Sidmouth Food Bank. Ref shs 37 18TI 1386. Picture: Terry Ife - Credit: Archant

Food bank workers who have been intimidated for giving aid to people who allegedly ‘don’t need help’ have hit back at abusers, reminding them that no-one knows what goes on behind closed doors.

It comes in the same week that the Sid Valley Food Bank helped a record-breaking number of people, giving out 28 food parcels for around 50 individuals – this included seven families with young children.

The Herald previously ran a story about the increasing number of people needing the food bank because of benefit changes. East Devon District Council has also now urged Universal Credit claimants struggling to cope with this to seek help from its benefits team.

The food bank’s co-ordinator Andie Milne said she herself and a trustee had been approached by people hurling abuse about those who they felt should not be eligible for help.

She added: “People have stopped us, asking why someone has got help because they have a car or a pet.

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“They don’t know what goes on behind closed doors. It is very narrow minded.”

Andie said the food bank had run a programme in the summer helping to provide lunches to children whose families struggled during the holidays.

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She added: “I was doing a children’s shop and was abused twice by older men, in their 80s, it was intimidating and distressing.

“Everyone who is helped by the food bank had been referred from authorised referrers.

“People who come here are at their lowest and need all the understanding that maintains their dignity. I have never come across a single time waster.”

Andie said this week, a woman they’d helped who had her benefits reinstated had returned food she’d not used along with £50 to use on fresh items at the food bank.

She said: “When people don’t need us anymore they do give back – they are so grateful.”

Andie asked anyone with concerns to contact her confidentially, and not approach volunteers or trustees.

She also appealed to anyone who could donate some of their most needed items – tinned fruit, veg and meat, puddings, fruit juice and tins/packets of vegetarian meals.

Email info@sidvalleyfood to contact the food bank. To contact the benefits team email or call 01395 571770.

Cllr Dean Barrow, who is responsible for finance, said: “Our message is clear – please get in touch with us and we can help you.

“Many of our customers applying for Universal Credit are finding that our help is invaluable and the council genuinely wants to support our residents affected by this change and help them receive the benefit that they need.

“If anyone is experiencing any problems with claiming Universal Credit or have any concerns about it, please get in touch with the district council’s benefits team.”

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