Ian has suffered from depression and mental issues, and was receiving benefit assistance when payments were stopped due to a change in the system . This is his story:
"I came to Bristol to go to university – I did well and graduated. My degree was English and Drama at the University of the West of England. But I had an acute bout of depression, which I had experienced as a child and as an adult. In 2008, I had a nervous breakdown, and the university was brilliant and pulled out all the stops and really helped me. I graduated in 2011 and haven’t been well since. Last year, the government wrote to me to tell me that my disability allowance was changing and that I would be assessed for Personal Independence Payments (PIP). These are not automatic or guaranteed. I was assessed in February 2017 and was denied, and my last payment was in March. When the disability living allowance is stopped and the PIP is not made, it also reduces other benefits like housing and employment support which meant that suddenly I did not have enough money to live on. Because I didn’t qualify for PIP, my housing benefit was capped, and then my employment and support allowance was capped as well.
I managed the best I could through April to August thinking that I would hear about my PIP soon. I had appealed it. I had heard about foodbanks from the news and ‘I, Daniel Blake’, and I knew my parents donated to their foodbank. So I knew support was there, but I just didn’t know how you accessed it. I did an internet search and the East Bristol Foodbank came up. I came along to the St. Mark’s church outlet at the end of September and the guys here were amazing. You hear that they give you three days’ of emergency food, but what is actually distributed to us is so generous. I was in tears because I was so moved at the generosity. There was more for three days than I had been buying for a week. It made such a difference. I am a vegetarian and a diabetic, and they worked really hard to swap things around to accommodate my dietary needs. I got this massive bag of porridge which was just such a treat. It made a huge difference. Andy and Juliet (foodbank staff) were advising me on my household budget and bills, and sorted me out with another top-up contribution. The little money that I had, I was able to spend on fresh produce, knowing that I had food from here. The food that I received from the foodbank has lasted me a whole month.
I’ve also been fortunate because the tribunal awarded me my appeal for PIP so that has been back-dated and sorted out and has come through. So I have returned all my surplus food to the foodbank because in all good conscience I couldn’t keep it. There are people out there who are in a hole. I want them to have this. I am also volunteering here as well now. Crisis Centre Ministries have been fantastic. I have had so much fun sorting out stuff this morning, knowing what a difference it made to me then. It makes a difference to me to be able to volunteer. I know what a hole people can be in. I’ve seen it. That’s why I wanted to share my story. Well done and thank you everyone."