DEMAND for Swanage food bank services have more than doubled over the past year.

More people than ever before are being referred to the food bank at Swanage Salvation Army Hall, Kings Road East, as families struggle with the switch to Universal credit, zero hour contracts and the lack of seasonal work locally.

In 2017 the food bank helped 355 adults, 20 children and eleven pets.

So far this year, these numbers have more than doubled, food bank volunteers have confirmed.

Swanage Food Bank chairman Pauline Werba, who also works at Citizen's Advice, told the Daily Echo: "We often get a call that there is absolutely no food in the house. You think, how can it have got to that level, but it has.

"Sometimes they have children, it really is quite a dire situation for some."

Pauline also says she's noticed a direct link between increasing numbers being referred by health and social care professionals, and the roll out of the controversial benefits system Universal Credit.

"I know the problems this is causing people," she said: "Many don't have any income for six weeks, some even longer.

"A lot of people are being moved over from other benefits to Universal Credit and they haven't got the wherewithal to be able to make online applications. They may not have the literacy skills, they may not have internet access, so they are going without.

"Another thing that is causing problems is all the people on zero hours contracts, and the usual for Swanage - the seasonal work that has dried up.

"Family breakdowns can also cause huge hardship financially."

Add this to expensive private rented housing, Pauline says, and the problems mount.

"I don't have the exact figures to hand, but already over the last year the numbers have more than doubled."

Swanage Food Bank, which is supported by Swanage Churches Together, wanted to publicly thank all the surrounding schools and local churches for their harvest donations.

She added: "Our ever-increasing number of clients always express their gratitude for the ample provisions we are able to pass on to them from what we've received.

"All money donations enable us to top-up fuel cards, to purchase fresh food for every client, and also to buy special treats for the 50 Christmas hampers we give to households referred to us by our networking agencies.

"We pack these special food hampers on Wednesday 19th December, so if you would like to give Christmas fare for these, please let us have items before that date - collection bins at Budgens, Co-op, Costcutters, and at the backs of churches as usual.

"Many, many thanks."