A CHARITY has seen a spike in demand in the ten days following the introduction of universal credit and is predicting a 40 per cent rise in the number of food parcels it hands out by the end of the year.

East Durham Trust, which provides emergency food parcels, debt advice and benefit checks to the communities of the former district of Easington, has reported a surge since last week, when the benefit was introduced for new claimants in the area.

Last week, the charity fed more than 400 children during half-term “holiday hunger” events and helped 14 new claimants who went to the charity for help directly in response to universal credit, which combines a number of benefits into a single payment.

Chief executive Malcolm Fallow said the trust was giving out around 70 food packets a week, up from about 40 this time last year.

He said new claimants would not receive any money until at least December 1.

Mr Fallow said: “For someone living hand to mouth, being asked to wait for five weeks is significant. Two days is a long time.

“They can only rely on food parcels. There’s just no safety net for these people.”

He added: “Sadly, the full impact of this ill-conceived benefit change has become apparent virtually overnight. As anticipated the demand on our services has increased with vulnerable people being expected to live on nothing for up to seven weeks.”

The charity has so far raised £2,000 for the People’s Takeaway project – a crowdfunding campaign to fund hot meals for people in crisis.

A Department for Work and Pensions said advance payments and budgeting support was available for anyone who needed help. A spokesman said: “Universal Credit lies at the heart of our commitment to help people improve their lives and raise their incomes.”