Foodbank users can get free legal advice to help lift themselves out of poverty – thanks to new funding for a south London charity.
Brixton Advice Centre offers people using foodbanks in the London Borough of Lambeth the chance to speak to a specialist adviser to get help with issues such as benefits, debt and housing.
The scheme helps people struggling to get by, or facing an unexpected change in circumstances, to deal with their immediate crisis, tackle the underlying issues which lead them to seek help, and get their lives back on track.
It is being funded with a £105,800 grant over two years from City Bridge Trust – the City of London Corporation’s charity funder.
City Bridge Trust Chairman Giles Shilson said:
“The key to the success of this scheme is that it places resources where they are needed most, offering a lifeline to people at the sharp end, who find themselves in a situation where they’re struggling to put food on the table or heat their homes.
“The specialist advice service offers hope to people in their darkest hour, enabling them to sort out the problems which result in them needing to use a foodbank in the first place and to look to the future with renewed optimism.”
Brixton Advice Centre has been helping generations of south Londoners since it was set up in 1966, and operates out of a historic base in Railton Road which was at the frontline of the Brixton riots of 1981.
It works alongside West Norwood-based advice charity Centre 70, deploying advisers at foodbanks run by the Trussell Trust-funded Norwood & Brixton Foodbank.
Uptake of the service soared by 79 per cent during the first lockdown as people wrestled with issues such as losing their jobs, facing reduced hours at work and having to make new benefits claims due to the Covid pandemic.
Brixton Advice Centre Chief Executive Patrick Torsney said:
“This service has a massive impact on people’s lives. We see people whose lives are in ruins and they can’t see a way through, reaching a point where they’re able to resolve the issues they’re facing and regain control of their lives.
“It’s not just about sorting out legal issues – it’s about showing them their problems can be solved and that there’s someone on their side. We’re able to make a life-changing intervention and have a positive impact on some of the most vulnerable people in our community.”
The advice service is available via foodbanks run by Norwood and Brixton Foodbank. More information is at https://norwoodbrixton.foodbank.org.uk/get-help/
The City of London Corporation’s charity funder, City Bridge Trust, is London’s biggest independent grant giver, making grants of over £25 million a year to tackle disadvantage across the capital – www.citybridgetrust.org.uk
More information on Brixton Advice Centre is at www.brixtonadvice.org.uk
Case study: ‘I can’t thank them enough – they’re lifesavers’
Michael, 59, from Brixton, contacted Norwood and Brixton Foodbank after his wife passed away. He had found himself with nothing to eat and wasn’t sleeping due to worry. He was experiencing problems paying his bills and getting on top of a number of credit demands.
The foodbank provided a supportive atmosphere, made sure he had sufficient food to get by, and linked him up with an adviser from the advice centre. He was assisted by specialist money and benefits advisers, who helped him apply for and obtain a Debt Relief Order and also resolved the issues he was having with his benefit payments, which led to an increase in his regular income.
Michael said: “I couldn’t believe there were people who’d help me, I was depressed, I was in a right state.
“In the foodbank and at the advice centre, no-one judged me, they were just really calm and talked me through everything. We planned out the best way of sorting everything out and then they got on with it.
“I can’t thank them enough. I really do think they’re lifesavers.”