A food bank organiser has said he worries about the psychological impact of widespread unemployment on the Torry community and the stark choices it could bring over Christmas.
Evan Adamson, community connector at the Instant Neighbour Food Bank, said: “We have certainly seen a rise in people using our service coming from Torry and we’ve seen a big jump in numbers of people coming to our foodbank from across Aberdeen.
“We’ve seen an increase of people on furlough, those who’ve been laid off and those on zero hours contracts who just can’t get work.
“Last year we averaged 80 to 100 food parcels a week, but in April we did 2,500 parcels, it’s come down a bit since then, but we’re still way up on our pre-Covid-19 numbers.
“That amount of people needing to use Universal Credit brings a community right down psychologically. Just the word ‘Universal Credit’ causes people to recoil, and you have to think about it differently to the old benefits system because it’s totally different.”
Mr Adamson said he has a number clients who are “terrified” by the prospect of having to claim Universal Credit.
He said: “A lot of it has to do with hearsay about what it is. Part of the problem is that the information changes about it so much, even benefit advisers didn’t know what was going on at the start.
“Just the term causes not just apathy, but anger. And you’ve got a community like Torry, which is a poor community, where you can see people’s eyes rolling because they don’t want to be associated with Universal Credit, or even the conversation.”
The food bank organiser claims the reaction to Universal Credit often means people put off applying for it, especially at this time of year.
Mr Adamson said in a normal year his service usually sees a 50% rise in food bank use at Christmas.
He’s concerned what the rising number of those applying for unemployment benefit will mean for many in Aberdeen.
Mr Adamson said: “This year has been bad enough, but with the end of the furlough scheme coming you’re going to have a lot of people applying for unemployment benefits, so if you’re having a lot of people applying in November and I fear that the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) are inundated with applications then you have the possibility of people last work payment might be enough to cancel their first Universal Credit payment due to the way the system works.
“That’s the last money they will see until the end of January, which is terrifying.”
“For a lot of folk now they are really starting to look at their expenses, but if they get sacked tomorrow they could see zero income through November and December, that’s what we are bracing ourselves for – it could be really bad for young families, in particular.”