Benefit levels must keep pace with the rising cost of essential items, the Trussell Trust has warned as new figures show foodbank use has surged in the region.

New figures show that between April 1, 2017, and March 31 this year, foodbanks, run by the charity in the East of England, gave out 129,261 three-day emergency food supplies to people in crisis, a 13 per cent increase on the previous year.

The national figure shows that during the same period, the trust distributed 1,332,952 emergency food packs to families and 484,026 of these were for children.

The Cambridgeshire picture is a mixed one and, of the seven foodbanks run by the trust in the county, Cambridge city and Ely have seen the biggest year-on-year rises for adults and children, which are recorded separately.

Wisbech, Peterborough and St Neots also saw a rise in the number of adults and children receiving emergency food. The Godmanchester foodbank distributed packs to fewer people than the year before and Ramsey also saw a small decrease.

Emma Revie, chief executive of The Trussell Trust, said: "As a nation we expect that no one should be left hungry or destitute but illness, disability, family breakdown or the loss of a job could happen to any of us, and we owe it to each other to make sure sufficient financial support is in place when we need it most.

"It is hard to break free from hunger if there isn't enough money coming in to cover the rising cost of absolute essentials such as food and housing.

"Universal credit is the future of our benefits system. It's vital we get it right and ensure levels of payment keep pace with the rising cost of essentials, particularly for groups of people we know are already more likely to need a foodbank."

According to the trust, universal credit is not the only benefit people at foodbanks are experiencing issues with, but it is a significant factor in many areas.

The charity is calling for benefit levels to be increased in line with inflation to ensure payments keep pace with the cost of living, particularly for disabled people and families with dependent children who are particularly at risk.

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said the reasons why people use foodbanks are complex, so it would be wrong to link a rise to any one cause.

It also said the Trussell Trust research was based on anecdotal evidence from a small sample of universal credit claimants.