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Foodbank numbers up yet again

18 October 2013


In hand: the foodbank launched at St Thomas's, Pear Tree, Derby, at the beginning of October (story, Real Life)

In hand: the foodbank launched at St Thomas's, Pear Tree, Derby, at the beginning of October (story, Real Life)

THE Government's "Poverty Tsar", Frank Field MP, said on Wednesday that he had asked the Archbishop of Canterbury to lead an inquiry into the demand for foodbanks.

Mr Field, Labour MP for Birkenhead, who has established a cross-party parliamentary group on hunger and food, told ITV's Daybreak: "If you said to me 30 years ago that I would be coming on television to talk about this, I would have advised you to go into a dark room and actually lie down."

The Trussell Trust, Britain's largest foodbank network, reported on Wednesday that more than 350,000 people had received three days' emergency food from its foodbanks between April and September 2013, three times the numbers helped in the same period last year. Chris Mould, the trust's executive chairman, said that the figures were "a wake-up call to the nation, but there has been no policy response, and the situation is getting worse. The level of food poverty in the UK is not acceptable. It's scandalous, and it is causing deep distress to thousands of people."

He has called for an official inquiry into the causes of food poverty and the rise in the use of foodbanks. Mr Field first called for such an inquiry last month.

The Trussell figures show that 20 per cent of food-parcel receipients - 65,177 people - were referred as a result of changes to their benefits in the first half of this year, compared with 14,897 (14 per cent) during the same period last year.

Mr Mould said: "Problems with welfare are not new. They have existed for years. But the reality is that, when welfare provision breaks down, people go hungry. We're talking about mums not eating for days because they've been sanctioned for seemingly illogical reasons, or people leaving hospital after a major operation to find that their benefits have been stopped or delayed. It's not right that so many more people are now being referred to foodbanks due to problems with welfare, especially as much of this is preventable."

A spokesman for the Prime Minister told ITV on Wednesday that the growth of foodbanks was part of the "proud tradition" of the voluntary sector providing additional support.

"This Government has lifted the block on job centres' being able to point people in the direction of the additional assistance that foodbanks provide," he said.

Earlier this year, Mr Mould reported that one of the reasons for the expansion of the Trust's network was the organisation's goal to see a foodbank established in every community. It estimated that another 300 were needed. But "there would not be so many foodbanks if there weren't an awful lot of people in this country in significant difficulty" ( News, 22 February).

Last month, Archbishop Welby said that foodbanks were "sadly necessary as much for those in work as out of it, and . . . are not invariably the result of fecklessness, laziness or just sheer idleness; and demonising those who use them is not an approach that we should take."

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