NEARLY 500 Monmouthshire residents, including children, have been fed using foodbanks in the county within the last three months.

Councillors heard that the number of people using Trussell Trust foodbanks has increased in the last two years, with Universal Credit given as the main reason behind referrals.

The number of emergency food supplies distributed in Monmouthshire last year rose by 14 per cent – close to the 15 per cent rise seen across Wales.

A total of 2,852 people, including 978 children, used Trussell Trust foodbanks in Chepstow, Monmouth and Abergavenny in 2018/19.

Carys Alford, area manager for the trust’s foodbanks in south Wales, told Monmouthshire council’s adults select committee said: “This is not okay, there shouldn’t be a need for foodbanks.

“Just from this year, between April and June, there’s already been nearly 500 people fed across Monmouthshire.”

Independent councillor Frances Taylor, chair of the committee, said: “This is a concerning picture because we’re looking at an increasing trend.”

The committee heard on Tuesday that 51 per cent of people used foodbanks due to their Universal Credit payments being delayed or changed, with others struggling with low income and homelessness.

Ms Alford said the trust was campaigning about the plight of claimants put “on a financial knife edge” by having to wait at least five weeks for their first Universal Credit payment.

Conservative councillor Sheila Woodhouse praised the work of Trussell Trust and the “loud and clear” advice offered alongside the provision of emergency food parcels.

But Labour councillor Roger Harris said: “What sort of nation are we that forces citizens under the badge of welfare reform to go to foodbanks? We all ought to be ashamed.”

Richard Davies, head of the shared benefits service for Monmouthshire and Torfaen, said many of the Universal Credit changes proposed by work and pensions secretary Amber Rudd had yet to be implemented.

But the delay to the next phase of the benefits overhaul, which would see existing benefits claimants brought onto Universal Credit, had been welcomed.

Mr Davies said the council also supports Universal Credit claimants struggling with their rent through discretionary housing payments (DHPs).

Of the 1,129 DHPs paid to households at risk of losing their tenancies last year, 250 payments were made to customers facing general hardship, namely those on Universal Credit.

The council spent £198,196 on such payments in 2018/19, placing it in the top two authorities in Wales alongside Torfaen.

An extra £60,000 a year was made available by the council to meet demand, on top of the administration grant provided by the Department for Work and Pensions.

“The approach has been very positive and has had an excellent impact,” said Mr Davies.