Greenwich Foodbank faces a tough summer – can you help?

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It may be summer, but Greenwich Foodbank is in increasing need of help as the rollout of Universal Credit causes a huge jump in demand for its services. Local Democracy Reporter TOM BULL visited its Eltham base to talk to its volunteers.

If Greenwich Foodbank could close tomorrow, it would. But as demand grows, there’s little chance of that.

Despite the generosity of the public, workers are quietly concerned that resources are wearing thin.

Following the rollout of Universal Credit, paired with London’s housing problems, volunteers in Greenwich say they are set to serve more than 9,000 residents in need this year – a 20 per cent increase on last year.

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Along with his wife Esme, volunteer Alan Robinson, 70, has been involved with the food bank since 2012.

He said: “If the rate people are coming in continues this year it will be the biggest increase since 2015. This is the quietest time of year for food coming in. It’s a worrying time at the moment.

“We have never run out of food since we’ve been running, this is probably the closest we’ve got to that. It’s worrying. The last thing we want is for us not to be able to help.”

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The impact of Universal Credit has been widely attributed to a surge in the use of foodbanks. In Greenwich, the repercussions were delayed as the borough was towards the end of the roll-out.

Universal Credit was designed to make the system simpler by combining several benefits into one, but has been criticised for causing a five-week delay in payments.

That, along with a lack in social housing, has been blamed for the continued use of Greenwich Foodbank.

During the morning only a few people turn up to use the service. It’s quiet, but volunteers say there’s never any guessing how busy they can be.

One mum does come in. She has her son with her, who has just turned one. It was her first time using a food bank.

The mother-of-three’s freezer had been left open, and she was left in a position where she didn’t know where to go.

She said: “Hopefully I won’t have to use it again. But if I do then I know it’s here. It’s amazing what these people do. I don’t know where I would have been without it. I couldn’t tell you – I’d be doomed.”

More than 100 people give up their time to keep the food bank running, including a team of drivers and warehouse workers.

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Despite mountains of pasta taking up near enough an entire room, Greenwich Foodbank is in desperate need of “staples” like tinned meat and veg.

Sat in the Eltham facility, Robinson told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that the use of the charity has become “institutionalised”.

He said: “We certainly see people who are in work and on low pay. It is quite clear. It’s a worrying number of people we see. It opened my eyes to how many people in that position.

“Our ambition is to close. We don’t want to be here but we are slowly becoming institutionalised. We are part of the support service. Society is becoming dependent on us.”

Danny Thorpe, the leader of Greenwich Council, said the government must take “immediate action” on poverty.

He said: “These figures are incredibly disappointing and it is shocking that Greenwich residents are not only dependent on emergency food aid but that the number of those in need is increasing.

“As part of Greenwich’s drive to ensure school-aged children receive regular meals, a programme was launched last year to tackle hunger during school holidays and we are pleased to have been able to fund and provide nutritious meals to over 8,000 children so far at drop-in centres across the borough.

“Our borough is one of the most deprived local authorities in the country and we’re doing what we can, but central government austerity measures and increasing costs have left us with a £125million shortfall since 2010, which is having a disastrous impact.

“Central government must take immediate action before our borough slips further into poverty.”

To donate items to Greenwich Foodbank, drop them off at one of its collection points, which include Charlton House and the large Asda and Sainsbury’s stores in Charlton.

Greenwich Council’s Summer Feast programme runs until the new school term starts in September, at locations including the Clockhouse Community Centre on the Woolwich Dockyard Estate, Woolwich Common Youth Club and Meridian Adventure Playground in west Greenwich.


LDRS logoTom Bull is the Local Democracy Reporter for Greenwich. The Local Democracy Reporter Service is a BBC-funded initiative to ensure councils are covered properly in local media.
See more about how The Charlton Champion uses LDRS content.


Charlton Park Academy rebuild approved by councillors

What the new school will look like

Greenwich councillors have backed a new scheme to revamp Charlton Park Academy.

The academy, in Charlton Park Road, has had its plans for a revamp approved by the local authority at a planning meeting on Tuesday. The school, which looks after kids with special educational needs, was given the greenlight to bulldoze the existing school building in place of new modern features.

Charlton Park Academy teaches students with complex, low incidence special educational needs.
Councillors signed off on the plans at a meeting on June 5 following officer’s recommendations.

Officers said in a report before the meeting: “Charlton Park Academy, as a SEN school, provides a valuable service for the local community by providing education for vulnerable children and young adults who cannot be accommodated in conventional or unspecialised schools, with a focus on complex, low incidence disabilities.

They added: “The proposed development is considered to be acceptable in land use terms, and the redevelopment of Rainbow House would enhance the educational offer within the borough, by providing modern learning facilities and enhanced sleeping facilities for children with special educational needs.”

The existing buildings were originally parts of the 1967 school that have since been encased in temporary structures. In their planning statement, submitted last year, the school said: “The key benefits of the scheme include the demolition of tired and not-fit-for-purpose education building and an important upgrade in the provision of a much-needed Special Education Needs and Disability facility with all modern facilities.”

The plans will have the existing school building demolished and a two-storey replacement with sleeping accommodation for staff and students, along with kitchen and living areas.


LDRS logoTom Bull is the Local Democracy Reporter for Greenwich. The Local Democracy Reporter Service is a BBC-funded initiative to ensure councils are covered properly in local media.
See more about how The Charlton Champion uses LDRS content.


Council planners recommend rebuilding Charlton Park Academy

What the new school will look like

Planners at Greenwich Council have recommended that councillors back a scheme to revamp Charlton Park Academy by knocking down and rebuilding its main site.

The plans, to demolish a building known as Rainbow House for bigger, modern facilities, have been backed by council officers.

A two-storey replacement will have sleeping accommodation for staff and students, along with kitchen and living areas.

Officers said: “Charlton Park Academy, as a SEN school, provides a valuable service for the local community by providing education for vulnerable children and young adults who cannot be accommodated in conventional or unspecialised schools, with a focus on complex, low incidence disabilities. The proposed development is considered to be acceptable in land use terms, and the redevelopment of Rainbow House would enhance the educational offer within the borough, by providing modern learning facilities and enhanced sleeping facilities for children with special educational needs.”

The school said its current setup has become “no longer fit for purpose and have aged beyond being reasonably maintained”. It added: “The key benefits of the scheme include the demolition of tired and not-fit-for-purpose education building and an important upgrade in the provision of a much-needed Special Education Needs and Disability facility with all modern facilities and support providing essential enhancements to the quality of SEND provision whilst at Charlton Park Academy.”

The plans will be debated at a planning meeting on Tuesday, June 4, at Woolwich Town Hall.


LDRS logoTom Bull is the Local Democracy Reporter for Greenwich. The Local Democracy Reporter Service is a BBC-funded initiative to ensure councils are covered properly in local media.
See more about how The Charlton Champion uses LDRS content.