Foodbanks in Lewisham are urging the Council to give cash to those struggling instead of food vouchers so that people in need can choose for themselves.

It follows Lewisham Council’s announcement that it would be giving cash to many of those eligible for the Household Support Fund, but that not everyone would receive cash payments.

The Household Fund is provided by money from the central government and given to people in the borough who need support paying for food or bills, including people on certain benefits and those on free school meals.

However, families receiving free school meals are the only group who will still be given vouchers rather than cash – a decision which the Legendary Community Club in Lewisham says is “disastrous”.

Alexandra McMillan, the founder and CEO of the Legendary Community Club in Lewisham, said: “The council don’t seem to understand that this is going to segregate families who are on free school meals.

“You’re basically telling them if you’re on free school meals you’re not allowed to choose for yourself.

“Giving cash would be brilliant but giving it to some people and not others is disastrous.”

The Legendary Community Club previously ran a trial where they gave cash to people who used their food bank, rather than food or vouchers, and passed the results onto Lewisham Council.

Alexandra explained: “We worked with a psychologist and an academic so we have quantified research that shows that giving families cash gives them more autonomy to make decisions and this has psychological benefits.

“The research shows that cash is the way forward, not vouchers.”

News Shopper: Alexandra previously said that her foodbank is at 'breaking point'Alexandra previously said that her foodbank is at 'breaking point'

One food bank user, who wishes to remain anonymous, felt relief during the trial of no longer having to ask people in their life for money or essential items, as the trial had temporarily allowed them to receive the cash directly.

They said: “I just don’t like asking people for stuff so sometimes I might be struggling and I have to break my pride to ask somebody, and then think about whether they are going to say yes or no.

“So mentally it felt good not to have to be reliant on other people’s pocket as much.

“I am crying because I’m angry – I just want to get myself out of this situation.”

The foodbank is also urging the Council to listen to the voices of those who are accessing this support to find out what will help them moving forward.

Alexandra added: “Why does no one from Lewisham Council want to speak to people who are on the ground and best placed to make these decisions?

“In my opinion, it’s people sitting round a table who are so far removed from the situation and definitely not working class who are making these decisions.”

A spokesperson for Lewisham Council said: “The current process for awarding cash is easier to administer and distribute the support and for those receiving support to redeem it.

“For schools, issuing vouchers is a process that they have used successfully for a number of years now and is at the discretion of the school rather than the Council.

“It should be noted that the cost of changing the current approach and issuing cash could be significant and would have to be deducted from the available funding reducing the amount of funding available to residents.”

Not only are the Legendary Community Club pushing for an end to food vouchers, they also argue that people are not getting enough money to combat the cost of living crisis.

Before Christmas, households in Lewisham who were entitled to the Household Support Fund received a voucher of £50 to spend on specified items.

Alexandra said: “The money being given is nowhere near enough, it’s not even a drop in the ocean.

“This support is less than a third of what has been cut from benefits.

“The central government need to be held to account.”

The Legendary Community Club are expecting the number of their food bank users to rise further unless the government extends support over the school holidays and increases funding to the local council.

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