A North East foodbank is one of six in the country where a pioneering financial advice service is to be given.
Foodbank charity the Trussell Trust is to launch the pilot scheme next month which is being part funded by money saving expert and award winning TV campaigner Martin Lewis.
In this region, it will be based at Durham, and the Trust says it is in response to the alarming increase in people being referred to foodbanks in severe financial difficulty.
New research shows that 12% of UK families have taken out a pay day loan to make ends meet in the last year while 24% of them have fallen into debt to be able to provide for the family.
Last year, 59,146 people in the North East used Trussell Trust foodbanks, a near six-fold increase on the previous year when the number was 10,510.
David McAuley, Trussell Trust Chief Executive said: “It’s deeply concerning that the basics of dignified life in modern Britain - food, heat and electricity – can fall out of reach for so many. High prices, static incomes, problems with benefits and harsh welfare sanctioning are forcing people into extreme financial difficulty.
“When you’re facing stark choices between eviction or feeding the family, debt and high interest loans can seem to offer a short term solution, the reality is that this often forces finances to spiral out of control.
“By introducing a ‘financial triage’ service in foodbanks, where clients are able to connect with free financial and debt advice, people will be given professional help to manage tight finances, avoid pay day lenders and structure debt to prevent the situation from getting worse and to help people break out of crisis much faster.”
He said Durham was chosen - alongside Coventry, Cardiff, Hammersmith and Fulham, Dundee and Stroud as it was keen to get involved after the Trussell Trust first talked of the idea and had in place the means to get it started quickly.
It follows an initial scheme in Tower Hamlets, London, which is also being continued.
The “six figure” sum donated by Martin Lewis will be supplemented by additional funds from the Trussell Trust and will enable the charity to develop the first stage of what it called a transformative “more than food” approach to foodbanks.
They say it will mean people in need will be able to access a range of support including emergency food, debt advice and money management all in one location, removing access barriers and cutting down waiting times.
It is hoped the service will be rolled out to all its 400 foodbanks over the 2015/16 period.
“Our ultimate goal is to put ourselves out of business with no-one needing foodbanks, although, realistically, people will always need help,” said David.
The aim of the pilot scheme is to improve the financial standing of foodbank users and improve their household budgetary skills.
It will partner with national UK debt charities to offer professional debt counselling services for up to 20 hours a week per centre in each region.
Mr Lewis said: “Those who go to foodbanks are already open to asking for help. They’ve rightly prioritised the urgent need to feed themselves and their children.
“Yet if we can intervene at that point to start to get their financial lives back on track, by approachable, non-judgemental help, it will hopefully cut down the number of return visits.”