Food Banks cash in on poverty

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  By Sandra Webster

DESPITE the so called crisis in the banking sector, the use of one type of bank continues to strip demand.  In a time of austerity the use of food banks are on the rise.

Over 500,000 people have now been fed by them including 14,000 Scots last year alone.

  By Sandra Webster

DESPITE the so called crisis in the banking sector, the use of one type of bank continues to strip demand.  In a time of austerity the use of food banks are on the rise.

Over 500,000 people have now been fed by them including 14,000 Scots last year alone.

In a time when benefit cuts are impacting on the lives of so many, the only source of help available is a voucher to provide them with a three day supply of food.

Most of the food banks have been set up by the Trussell Trust, linking in to local churches.  They claim to be a non-political organisation but have strong links with the Conservative Party.

Tory links

Its director Chris Mould has links with the Shaftesbury Partnership, who describe themselves as a “social business”.  One of the board of directors, Neil Atkins, is a Tory party councillor and the Mayor of Worthing.

The Shaftesbury Partnership recently congratulated one of their staff, Will Gallacher, on his recent appointment as special advisor to Chris Grayling.

Vouchers provided by the trust are now used instead of crisis loans to give people an emergency three day supply of food.  Crisis loans, which as part of the ConDems welfare cuts, were quietly ‘devolved’ to local authority control in April of this year.

The harsh reality is that cash-strapped local authorities now distribute vouchers for the Trussell Trust instead of a small amount of money which an individual could use to choose the type of food they would like to eat.

‘Annie’ who has recently been removed from Employment and Support Allowance and placed onto Jobseekers Allowance, despite being unfit for work for many years, is typical of many people who are forced to use food banks.

In Scotland, there has been a 150 per cent increase in the number of people having to use a food bank.  Half of these are casualties of benefit cuts and a direct result of their benefits being reduced, withdrawn or stopped.

A month ago, after being found fit for work by ATOS, Annie’s benefit payments were stopped for three weeks and her community psychiatric nurse gave her a token for a food bank in Renfrewshire.

She is a proud woman but had no choice but to go along to a local church where the food was distributed.

She told me that the volunteers were kind but that they had offered to pray for her to help her situation.  She was given a three-day supply of food.   The food, all tins and packets, is collected from members of the charity.

I saw the food she had been given and it reminded me of the collection of tins you might get from a harvest festival at school, where items are found from the back of cupboards and collected to be distributed to the needy.

Pitied

There is also no fresh food available, though some food banks do provide fruit or a vegetable.  This food did help keep Annie going for a few days but she said she felt like the recipient of charity and pitied by the volunteers.  Her story reflects the experiences of many.

In 2010-11, the UK Government paid out £228million in crisis loans.  These were small amounts of money to tide people over, and would be reclaimed from benefits.  It gave people the means to buy very basic food but they controlled where and what they bought. 

Food banks are nothing more than another step further down the road to the bad old days when no pay meant hunger and starvation.

It is not acceptable that as Cameron took his place in the G8 this week, thousands are forced to rely on charity to eat.  Unfortunately for many, food banks are the only option they have in a very harsh financial climate. 

The Westminster government seems to be moving further away from the thoughts of many, that we should support our neighbours and families.  Disability Living Allowance was a true lifeline.

Looking forward to the referendum next year I, like many others, wonder how we can dare to be different.  It is important that we share our vision of how different Scotland can be.

People will vote Yes because their lives will be transformed, not because their lives will stay the same.

 

This article appears courtesy of the Scottish Socialist Voice