Rural transport is added cost for low income families

Chrissy Abbott at Midhurst foodbank
Chrissy Abbott at Midhurst foodbank

The living wage in the Chichester district needs to be higher to meet housing and transport costs, foodbank organisers have said.

It comes after university research figures revealed one in five children in the district were living under the poverty line.

Joanna Kondabeka from Chichester district foodbank said housing, utilities and other area related costs put pressure on the 37 per cent of foodbank users in employment.

She said: “Sixty-one per cent of the district is in a rural area so things like transport are really expensive in this area and trying to get children to school, to a supermarket, doctors, etc, that all costs money, so you’re either having to catch the bus or get in a car.”

She said zero hours contracts were also difficult for families depending on an irregular income.

Chrissy Abbott, who runs the Midhurst branch of the foodbank, said half of all the parcels provided by the centre in St Ann’s Road had to be delivered to people unable to get to the foodbank because of transport issues.

She said that in some parts of West Sussex, public transport was so infrequent that if people got a job they couldn’t get to it as they couldn’t afford a car, or if they did buy an older car, it might not be as reliable.

She said: “The thing about poverty is it takes away your choices, you do what you have to do to survive.

“Of course, parents will always put their children first, so even if they have a choice they probably won’t use it for themselves, they’re doing it to meet their children’s needs.

“It’s very grim when you’re poor but there are an awful lot of people around here that are trying to do their best to make things better.

“I find the primary schools, for example, are very supportive of their families.”

Employment figures for the district show 675 people in the district claimed jobseekers allowance in December, a rise of five per cent on last year, but around half the number of claimants registered in 2010.

Universal credit is due to be introduced next summer as part of changes to benefits.

Joanna said it was too early to tell what the impact would be of the scheme but she hoped families would be helped by an advance benefits payment during the transition.