Bella Everett works for Citizens Advice, specifically covering the three foodbanks in BANES. She has been attending the majority of Bath Foodbank’s sessions each week since September 2023. The partnership is a project funded by The Trussell Trust. I met up with Bella to discuss how she feels the partnership is going and the difference it’s making with clients.

Hi Bella, thanks for meeting with me. It would be great to hear a bit more about the partnership between Bath Foodbank and Citizens Advice, so let’s dive straight in…

Roughly how many people have you seen since you started?

About 132 people have engaged with the service through Bath Foodbank, either in-person or through referrals. I see people at the Bath Foodbank centres, have a chat with them there and gather any information. The next step is to do a full appointment or refer them on to someone else if needed. If I’m not there at a session and the Bath Foodbank staff identify someone, they can refer them to me and I’ll pick them up as a referral. Bath Foodbank staff can also refer clients to other local agencies like the Wellbeing Hub or Clean Slate, for example.

And how about over a single session, how many people might you see?

It’s been quite interesting, sometimes Bath Foodbank is really busy and sometimes there will be no one for a while. I’d say up to six people in a session.

One good thing is I’m a continuous presence. So I might speak to someone one week and explain what we do. If that person uses Bath Foodbank a couple of times, sometimes I’ll pick them up another time. They’ve gone away and thought about it and when they’ve returned, they’ve felt a bit more ready.

That’s like at Genesis Life Projects where we run our programmes for vulnerable adults. Having the continuous staff there through different courses, days or times makes people more likely to engage with the services we deliver because it becomes safer, more familiar.

Yes definitely. Before working at Bath Foodbank I did mainly phone based advice, but the face-to-face is really nice because you get to know people and they come and update you and say, ‘I spoke to you a couple of weeks ago and here’s what’s going on with it’. So that’s been really nice.

Can you give me an idea of how a shift goes at Bath Foodbank?

At the start people are coming in and getting their food sheets filled out with the volunteers. When I first started we knew we didn’t want people to feel like the food is conditional on seeing me. So I wait for that part to get sorted. Then whilst they’re waiting for their parcels to be packed, I’ll sit down with them, maybe have a cup of tea, explain what we do, briefly chat with them and then if they’d like our support, I’ve got a little room. Part of our service is that it’s confidential.

Through Bath Foodbank we’ve been able to catch people who don’t necessarily know what Citizens Advice does.

Grainne, Bath Foodbank’s manager has said to me that when people come to Bath Foodbank, often it will be the first time they’ve accessed any kind of support, so they won’t be known by any local agencies anywhere in the system. So they don’t necessarily know what is available for them and that’s why the project with Citizens Advice is so useful because you can catch people at that early stage, point them in the right direction and get things moving for them much more quickly. Has that been your experience?

Yes definitely. The partnership between Citizens Advice and Bath Foodbank is a good combination because Bath Foodbank’s staff are experienced with the community support available like local pantries, which work really well alongside the kind of support we offer with something like benefits support for example.

What kind of support are you able to offer people?

Our main areas are things like benefits, debt, housing, family and work. We really thought debt and benefits would be the main thing, but the issues are so wide. Every time I see a client, I write the issue that they’ve come in with which fall under categories like debt or benefits. In the last quarter there was over 300 issues, so it’s so wide.

It’s interesting because some people have multiple things going on. I’m a generalist adviser so most things that people ask we will find a way to answer whether that be by ourselves or a referral to another agency.

Mostly we’re dealing with benefits, debt, housing and a lot of utilities actually. Lots of people are having issues with their utility provider.

What does ‘family’ break down as?

Things like separation, if someone is going through divorce, that might be a reason why their situation has changed. We can help by providing initial advice and then signpost them to legal advice for example.

And ‘work’ would be like if they’d been made redundant and need to get in touch with benefits until they get another job.

Yes and people who are unwell and having issues at work. We can help them with benefits but also if they’ve been treated unfairly by their employer.

How do you feel like the partnership is going?

I think it’s going really well. As time goes on, it feels like it’s getting easier as people know we’re there. Also being there every week and knowing how the process works at Bath Foodbank helps. There’s definitely a need for our service.

How do you feel the partnership is best helping people?

What I’ve seen from people is that they come into Bath Foodbank quite worried because they might not have been to one before. If they’ve been referred by their GP, they won’t necessarily have accessed any services to help with the actual issue. Some of the feedback from volunteers is that people feel quite relieved to be coming out with their food parcel and a bit of an action plan of how they can go away and start tackling the issue.

Yes, because there will always be a reason why people are needing a foodbank, why they can’t buy food themselves and that’s what needs addressing.

Yes the food is there in an emergency. Bath Foodbank staff are so lovely and they spend so much time with people, chatting to people. I think people feel like the foodbank is going to be scarier than it is. It’s nice that Bath Foodbank staff and volunteers can still do that part, and me being there takes the pressure off them to provide that specific support. It works really nicely together.

It sounds like it’s a real team effort.

That’s exactly what it is, yes. And the volunteers are so good.

That seems like a great place to finish. Thanks so much for your time Bella and for supporting people through Bath Foodbank.

To find out more about Bath Foodbank, please visit our website. Our food stocks are low at the moment, so please take a look at our shopping list to find out what our most needed items are. If you would like to organise a collection at your church, work or school, please email for more details. Thank you for your support.