Despite the government’s claims of recovery, the foodbank crisis isn’t going away

1st August, 2014 4:18 pm

miserable cameron

This week, following on from my work with Leeds West foodbank and the Yorkshire Evening Post’s (YEP) excellent campaign raising awareness of the issue, I attended the launch of a new foodbank in Horsforth, one of the wards in my constituency, to show my support for the valuable work they do.

Our current MP, a Tory, has been completely silent on the issue, while members of his own government have refused to meet representatives of the Trussell Trust to discuss a problem that they are to blame for.

When the coalition government took power, the number of people reliant on food banks was just over 40,000. This was when the UK was emerging from the worst recession in almost a century and it was expected that as the economy healed the need for food banks would decline.

Now, despite the so-called recovery, the number of people using foodbanks is over 900,000 and that number continues to spiral out of control. This increase is a direct result of this government’s callous indifference and brutal policies.

When the idea of the welfare state was proposed, it’s architect, William Beveridge, dreamed that it would eradicate want. Those great, radical men of the Attlee government were determined to make his dream a reality and, in a time of austerity, created a system to protect all citizens from cradle to grave.

That post-war dream has long since died, destroyed by a government that puts the needs of the wealthy and powerful before those of the poor and desperate; a government which has taken the social safety net and sacrificed it on the altar of deficit reduction.

The increase in foodbanks is a symptom of a social disease cultivated in Westminster by this coalition government; a disease caused by stagnant wages, the bedroom tax and creeping inflation. The disgusting complacency of the Tories is obvious. They see food banks as an alternative to the state. In reality they are a desperate attempt by good people to offset the impact of their vindictive and ill-conceived policies.

It is right that we praise those who run and support foodbanks. They are everyday heroes doing their absolute best to help society’s most vulnerable people. However, while the work foodbanks do is laudable, their existence should be a source of national shame.

Every food-bank that opens is a badge of failure for a government that every day is hurting the poor and the dispossessed, a government that has created a crisis that was avoidable and done nothing to fix it. In the 21st century, it is heinous that anybody, much less our children, should be unable to afford food, a basic human right, yet that the consequence of this government’s policies.

So, while we should support the work food banks do, a far better day will be when they are no longer needed. The government cannot solve this crisis because it is the cause of it. Its “reforms” are forcing its own citizens into starvation and poverty.

Every day in Britain there will be thousands of people whose lives are being ruined and who only survive due to the kindness of strangers. Don’t they deserve better than five more years of the Cameron and Clegg?

Jamie Hanley is the Labour PPC for Pudsey

You can read the YEP’s report on the problem in Leeds here.

The Trussell Trust in the UK’s largest operator of foodbanks. You can find out more about donating or volunteering with them here.

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