DEBATE over the causes underlying the tripling in demand for
foodbanks in Britain reached new levels over Christmas, as more
than 350,000 people were fed by food parcels in the run-up to
The Work and Pensions Secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, criticised
the country's largest foodbank provider, the Trussell Trust, and
the charity Church Action on Poverty, accusing them of political
He in turn was admonished by the former Archbishop of Canterbury
Lord Williams, who is patron of the Cambridge City Foodbank. Lord
Williams said that Mr Duncan Smith's comments were "extraordinary
He told the Cambridge News: "It is not political
point-scoring to say that these are the realities of life in
Britain today for a shockingly large number of ordinary people -
not scroungers, not idlers - but men and women desperate to keep
afloat and to look after their children or their elderly
"The real scaremongering is the attempt to deny the seriousness
of the situation by - in effect - accusing those seeking to help of
dishonesty as to their motivation.
"I would urge the Secretary of State to visit any foodbank he
chooses, and to listen to the accounts of what is actually
The Archbishop of Canterbury referred to the "misery and want"
faced by many, in his Christmas Day sermon at Canterbury.
Archbishop Welby said: "We see injustices at home. Even in a
recovering economy, Christians, the servants of a vulnerable and
poor Saviour, need to act to serve and love the poor: they need
also to challenge the causes of poverty. . .
"Our response is not political, but love delivered in hope. The
action of the Churches in the past five years is extraordinary,
reaching out in ways not seen since 1945. Yet no society can be
content where misery and want exist, unless through our love
collectively we also challenge the greed and selfishness behind
Church Action on Poverty released a strongly worded
pre-Christmas message, using a poster saying "Britain isn't
eating", mimicking the Conservative Party's "Britain isn't working"
advertising campaign from 1979. Its strapline says that "thousands
are going hungry because of benefit changes". In a new report,
Walking the Breadline, issued jointly with Oxfam, it
estimates that 500,000 people are "now reliant on food aid".
But, in a letter to the chairman of the Trussell Trust, Chris
Mould, which has been leaked to the press, Mr Duncan Smith said
that he rejected any suggestion that the Government was to
"I strongly refute this claim and would politely ask you to stop
scaremongering in this way. I understand that a feature of your
business model must require you to continuously achieve publicity,
but I'm concerned that you are now seeking to do this by making
your political opposition to welfare reform overtly clear."
A spokeswoman for the Department of Work and Pensions said:
"There is no robust evidence that welfare reforms are linked to
increased use of food banks. In fact, our welfare reforms will
improve the lives of some of the poorest families."
Bishop warns of risk to safety-net.
The Bishop of Warrington, the Rt Revd Richard Blackburn, has
said that the Government's new universal credit will "risk losing
the safety-net that the benefit system should provide".
In a letter to all clergy in the diocese of Liverpool, where he
is acting as the diocesan bishop, he said that the welfare changes
were hitting the most vulnerable people the hardest, even though
some reform of the system was "long overdue".
"We daily hear the stories of those forced into desperate
choices between food, rent, and clothing," he wrote, referring to
"conversations with churches in Warrington and Wigan, where
universal credit is being piloted, that there are grave
He said that it was worrying that "governments seem not to care
so much" about the fate of the poorest.