WIRRAL foodbank's manager has praised readers' overwhelming support after shocking figures revealed a rise in the number of people needing its help.

Richard Roberts said an incredible eight tonnes was donated to the charity's Harvest appeal.

He added that, so far, this year the charity has fed and supported a shocking 13,393 people in need of their help.

Of those, 8,904 were adults and 4,489 children.

The figure is an increase of 14% on this time last year.

Problems with Universal Credit and debt have led to a shocking rise in the number of emergency supplies handed out.

The eight tonnes of food that were donated will help the foodbank in its vital work.

Praising the public's support, Mr Roberts told the Globe: "We have had an incredible response from schools and churches, donating over eight tons of food to our Harvest appeal.

"Thank you to everyone for the tremendous support, the generosity of the people of Wirral is overwhelming and enables us to support individuals who need help.

"As Harvest ends, we are now preparing for Christmas.

"We have launched our reverse advent calendar, available from our website https://wirral.foodbank.org.uk/advent-calendar-2019/"

The Trussell Trust said 15,280 people received emergency food in Wirral last year, an increase of 35% on 2017, when 11,296 used its services. 3,541 of those were children.

Foodbank manager Richard Roberts continued: "In 2018, we experienced our busiest year, so we thought, with a 35% increase in the number of people attending our Foodbank.

"At the end of October 2019, we are already up by 14% on 2018.

"We are indebted to the people of Wirral, who continue to give so generously, this extends to our 300+ volunteers, who give of their time freely to support the work of the Foodbank.

"It is only through this continued support that we can meet the increasing demand placed upon the Foodbank."

The Trussell Trust said that if the minimum five-week wait for a first Universal Credit payment is not reduced, the only way to prevent more people being forced to rely on foodbanks is to pause all new claims for the benefit.

A spokesperson commented: "As a nation, we expect no one should be left hungry or destitute.

"Illness, disability, family breakdown or the loss of a job can happen to any of us.

"For too many people, staying above water is a daily struggle. It's not right that anyone is forced to turn to a food bank as a result."

Campbell Robb, chief executive of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, recently referred to foodbanks as the "fourth emergency service."

He continued: "It's not right that anyone in Wirral has to rely on emergency support from our foodbank, but the reality is that in 2018, we distributed 147 tons of food to local people.

"Without the tremendous generosity of the people and businesses of Wirral, who donated so generously with food and finances, we could not have done this.

"I also pay tribute to our amazing volunteers, who work tirelessly in our office, warehouse and centres. Thank you to all who support us every week."

Birkenhead MP Frank Field said: "Every visit is a life sustained and hunger prevented.

"Why this desperate call for help? Benefit changes, benefit delays, debt and low income are the main reasons. What an indictment.

"The Government should hang its head in shame.

"But thanks to Wirral citizens who are determined that their neighbour will not go hungry."

There are donation points for Wirral Foodbank across the borough - details can be found at https://wirral.foodbank.org.uk/give-help/donate-food/