Thursday, April 23, 2015

Crisis? What crisis? How politicians ignore the existence of food banks

'Those of us referred to food banks are the lucky ones with a good doctor or health visitor who knows us well enough to recognise that something has gone seriously wrong.'

 It’s like Groundhog Day. A report into food bank use is published. There are more people now than there were last year, month, week using them. Many people are referred to food banks due to delays and cuts to their benefits. Of the remaining referrals, a significant number are in low-paid, insecure work.

You might be forgiven for thinking that the UK doesn’t have a food bank problem, so absent have they been from the election debates and manifesto launches of the past few weeks. Yet the sharp rise in the number of people going hungry in our country seems to be an indicator that something has gone horribly wrong.

In 2009-10, the Trussel Trust’s food banks helped 41,000 people. This has risen to 1.1 million over the past year. What use is pontificating about numbers when you are one of the million? When it’s not a statistic, but a child crying in the night because they wake up hungry?

It is a problem so big that the main political parties don’t seem to know how to even talk about it, let alone address the issue. Instead, they distract us with staged walkabouts and soundbites, hen parties and hashtags, bread and circuses.

When David Cameron visited a food bank in his affluent constituency he reportedly turned up empty-handed, posed for photographs, and helped himself to a free lunch. Perhaps this is what Lord Freud and Edwina Currie were referring to with their comments about people taking advantage of the service. In fact, this is a luxury afforded only to the prime minister, as everyone else needs a voucher and a referral from a doctor, social services or similar agency...