Stonebridge foodbank stockpiling as director warns of acute hardship following Universal Credit rollout

Sufra director Mohammed Mamdani

Sufra director Mohammed Mamdani - Credit: Archant

The director of a Stonebridge foodbank is stockpiling food believing the government’s new Universal Credit system will spell chaos, hardship and acute stress for people.

Mohammed Mamdani, who heads up Sufra NW London in Pitfield Way, has warned Universal Credit will lead people to destitution.

The new benefit system was due to be rolled out in Wembley yesterday (Wed) following its launch in Harlesden on November 21.

The charity is stockpiling food in anticipation of people’s struggles, supported by Islamic Relief UK.

Mr Mamdani said: “A lot of vulnerable people will be in for a big shock. Many people affected don’t read newspapers and don’t have a television, so we are expecting chaos.”

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Universal Credit will see one single payment made monthly, in arrears, so people have to wait weeks before their first payments are made.

People can ask for advance payments but Mr Mamadani warned this is not a good idea.

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“People who come to our food bank are living hand-to-mouth and being forced to wait for benefit payments could be devastating for them,” he said.

“People are entitled to apply for an advance to cover the gap, but we have found that other people who have already been moved onto Universal Credit are then trapped into a lower income in order to pay back the advance. So this is something we are not advising people to apply for.”

He said one woman had moved to the area from Islington and struggled to apply for the new claim as it can only be done online and she didn’t have a computer. “She applied for Universal Credit six weeks ago and she has been coming to the food bank every day, dishevelled and forlorn,” he said.

“We work with some of the poorest and most vulnerable people in the borough, including Syrian refugees. Many do not have computers or are not able to speak English.”

The charity, in St Raphael’s Estate, has a garden that supplies fresh fruit, vegetables, free range eggs, jam and honey for the food bank – but relies on donations.

Islamic Relief’s UK programmes coordinator Sara Caggiati said: “The concerns that Mohammed is addressing should be a wakeup call and must be dealt with immediately.”

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