What’s in Labour’s five point plan for reducing food bank dependency?

25th March, 2015 8:55 am

By Rachel Reeves MP and Maria Eagle MP

The rise of food banks in 21stCentury Britain is nothing short of a disgrace. Figures from the Trussell Trust show that the number of people using food banks has increased from 41,000 in 2009-10 to 913,000 in 2013-14. Meanwhile, the number of jobs paying less than a living wage has gone up by 1.5 million from 3.4 million to 4.9 million (a 44% rise) under David Cameron. And there are now 1.8 million zero hours contracts in the economy.

The Tories’ attitude to the relentless rise in hunger in Britain speaks volumes for who they stand up for. They refuse to accept any responsibility for it, despite the fact their policies are making it worse.

The huge rise in the number of people using food banks in the last few years shows that the social security system in the hands of the Tories is too often letting down those who need its support, with job centre advisers given unfair targets for sanctioning people rather than providing the support to help people back to work.

The Tories’ cruel targets for sanctions in addition to benefit delays, failure on low pay, and cruel and unfair measures like the Bedroom Tax have created the conditions for rising food bank use.

To address the issues we need coordinated and effective Government action but there is no sense that any Government department under the Tories has taken responsibility for reducing the number of people who depend on food banks. The truth is that the Tories will never address these issues because they believe that the way to manage an economy is to focus only on helping a few at the top. They don’t understand that Britain succeeds only when hardworking families succeed.

To make a difference we need a Labour Government. That’s why today we have pledged to bring down the number of people using food banks in the next parliament, through a new five point plan which will tackle the root causes of rising food bank dependency. The next Labour government will reduce the number of people who rely on food banks by the end of the next Parliament by:

  1. Tackling low pay. We’ll raise the minimum wage to at least £8 an hour before 2020, give tax rebates to firms who pay a Living Wage, and end exploitative zero-hours contracts.
  2. Ensuring there is a co-ordinated and effective approach to food policy in government. We’ll end the chaos that we see today where no minister has responsibility for tackling food bank dependency.
  3. Getting a grip on benefit payments delays, including Jobseekers Allowance, and Personal Independence Payments which have led to rising reliance on food banks. We will set a target to bring down the number of people who cite delays or mistakes with their benefit payments as their reason for using a food bank by the end of our first year in office.
  4. Abolishing Job Centre benefit sanction targets. We’ll ensure the system is fair by reducing waiting times for hardship payments and making sure the most vulnerable including those with mental health issues, carers, pregnant women and people at risk of domestic violence are protected.
  5. Scrapping the cruel and unfair Bedroom Tax which has hit over half a million people, two thirds of them disabled, pushing families into debt and through the doors of food banks.

Under the Tories we would see a permanent cost-of-living crisis and a continuing rise in the number of families forced to depend on food banks.

That’s why we need Labour’s better plan for Britain’s future where we can address the root causes of rising food bank dependency by tackling low pay, ensuring a joined-up approach to food policy in government, and ensuring that the social security system treats people fairly and is there for every one of us when we need it.  The choice at the next election couldn’t be any clearer.

Rachel Reeves is Labour’s Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, and Maria Eagle is Labour’s Shadow Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Secretary

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  • treborc1

    In plain Lefties language of the working class F- Off. you can of course remove this since your in election mode and would back one the most right wingers within labour.

    New statesman .

    I’m not sure at what point the Labour party decided people on benefits
    weren’t equal citizens. Perhaps Rachel Reeves can pin it down. This
    week, the shadow work and pensions secretary was quoted in the Guardian saying:

    We are not the party of people on benefits. We don’t want to be seen, and we’re not, the party to represent those who are out of work. Labour are a party of working
    people, formed for and by working people.

    you lot put many of those people onto unemployment by your total and complete love affair with the banks and the financial markets. It is no error to say that many of the issue that our banks had PPI and Libor seems to have started once labour came to power that can not be accidental.

    Now then labour party

    How the Labour Party began.

    The Labour Party was created in 1900: a new party for a new century.
    Its formation was the result of many years of hard effort by working
    people, trade unionists and socialists, united by the goal of changing
    the British Parliament to represent the interests of everybody. Ignored
    by the Tories and disillusioned with the Liberals, a coalition of
    different interests came together to push for change at a Conference on
    Labour Representation in London’s Memorial Hall in February 1900.

    (notice those words: British Parliament to represent the interests of everybody.

    2015 Labour party.

    How the party works

    As a democratic, socialist party we welcome people to join the party
    from all walks of life, have their say and influence policy. We welcome
    membership applications from individuals, families, young people,
    students, workers, unemployed, older people – anyone with an interest in
    building a better Britain – a One Nation Britain

    (Notice not those who are sick or disabled older people but not those on pensions it is an interesting issue)

    2015 Progress party.

    As a democratic, Progress party we welcome people to join the party
    from employed and the middle class way of life, to have their say and influence on policy. We welcome membership applications from individuals, who are in employment.
    students, workers, employed , older people who have private pensions – anyone with an interest in building a real Tory Lite, Blue labour, One Nation of workers not shirkers.– a One Nation Britain of the hard working Tory Lite Progress.

    We Progress will rule the world once we get rid of the weak the sick the disabled the poor and those on state pensions and of course Miliband.

    Ah the good old days of Thatcher.

  • Imagine

    If you are serious about reducing food bank use Number 4 on the list should read “Abolishing Job Centre benefit sanctions”.

    • treborc1

      Well sanctions will not go Reeves has stated that already, but just not for being late, well not being five minutes late, but if your six minutes late well that a different matter.

  • Alex Wright

    Did anyone involved in writing this plan have experience of being on the dole and Housing Benefit, or being in debt – and the vast majority of the unemployed and low-paid on social security are surely in debt?

    I’ve signed on about seven times since graduating in 2011 (in and out of temp work), so I have some knowledge – and I’m protected from homelessness by my parents, so there’s plenty of people worse off than me.

    Unless they’re reducing the delay for hardship payments to zero and paying them via same-day Faster Payments (or cash at the Post Office for those needing it), and ending the suspension of Housing Benefit when people are sanctioned, I don’t see food banks closing any time soon.

    Or just abolishing sanctions – that’d do a hell of lot more, and be a lot easier to administer. And lead the way to a minimum or basic income – even right wing, arch libertarian Milton Friedman supported an unconditional minimum income.

    If mass murderers have an absolute right to food and shelter, why doesn’t everyone?

    • robertcp

      I was in and out of work for the first two or three years after I graduated in 1987. Good luck for the future.

    • MrSauce

      Crikey! What did you graduate in?

  • Tommo

    Control immigration so that British workers have a fair chance of getting jobs

  • Malcolm McCandless

    This is what Labour should be pledging;

    1. Introduce a Living Wage for all, abolish zero hour contracts.

    2. Food bank dependency – see 1.

    3. Don’t set targets, base welfare provision on individual needs.

    4. Abolish sanctions.

    5. Apologise for introducing the Bedroom Tax.

  • Markham Weavill

    Yet more promises from an MP who categorises all the old, ill, disabled and unemployed as a dead weight on society. The utterances of Reeves could just as easily come from any member of the Coalition DWP team.

    Food banks and supermarkets set up to serve the poorest by voucher should have been attacked as a disgrace for the last four years. However, all Labour has done is keep their mouths shut. Then Labour wonder why its core vote is ebbing away. The answer is that lots of the electorate recognise that when it comes to “welfare” Labour are just as uncaring as the Coalition.

  • BusyBeeBuzz

    I am unemployed and disabled. I’ve been through the Atos WCA and am now
    on the Work Programme and have experienced a breach of the Public Sector
    Equality Duty, but have no legal aid to take them to court. “Labour are
    not the party of people on benefits”, but they do want money from people
    on benefits! This is what Iain McNicol emailed to me today:

    It’s not really the done thing to talk bluntly about money, [myrealname],
    but needs must.

    Every day at the moment, an average of 600 Labour members and supporters like
    you are making small donations online to help us beat the Tories. (And fun facts:
    32 people called [myrealname] have already chipped in, as have 140 of your
    neighbours in [city], [constituency].)

    It would be hugely helpful if you were among our group of donors before the
    official campaign kicks off next week — this is our last push to make sure we
    go into the election in as strong a position as possible.

    So, [myrealname] from [city], [constituency]: how about it? We know it’s still a while till pay day, but even £3 would help us.

    It takes less than two minutes to do, so go on — grab your card from your
    wallet right now.”

    Er…I’ll see what I can get from the food bank. It’s the only bank I deal with!

  • robertcp

    This is not perfect but it should help a lot of people.

  • disqus_EJmqmmuw9G

    Today’s episode of the Archers describes money given by rich mum to a student daughter as “a handout”. Nice one! I thought. No mention yet of the daughter’s need to experience prolonged periods of cold, hunger, and utter despondency to kick her dependency habit, but who knows, maybe next week given the times we live in.

    Anyway, a social security system that is Conditional is not for “every one of us when we need it”; it is available only for those who can comply with the conditions attached. If they ever existed, basic needs safeguards have gone; as anyone who has needed protection from unemployment or underemployment over the past five years (or indeed the last few decades) will know. Dependence on private charity, of some form or another, has been growing for years, dragging us all down for years. As things stand, the only unanswered question in my neck of the woods is how much worse can this get?

    I don’t expect a basic income to be championed; no matter how successful, in practice, it would likely prove to be. But when the alternative is culturally determined Conditionality without safeguards; when bigotry can determine what is fair; when resource needs can be characterised as cultural problems demonstrating guilt, justifying sanctions, or ridiculously onerous demands suggesting the DWP imagines ownership over anyone claiming against their national insurance, I expect Labour to, at the very least, avoid giving this succour.

    A continuation of a “benefits are always bad” narrative, a Tory trope if ever there was one, is succour indeed for IDS and his demented crew. It is blinkered, economically irrational; it promotes a Tory defined welfare state – a dead end.

  • Monkey_Bach

    Do we know categorically that Jobcentres are issued with sanction targets?

    The DWP has said not.

    As far as I can see the reason so many sanctions are handed out is less to do with targets (real or mythological) than claimants being tripped up by impossibly taxing “claimant commitments” and then being routinely sanctioned by junior clerks at Jobcentres, leaving it to the individual claimant to appeal the sanction and to an anonymous “Decision Maker” somewhere else to determine the claimant’s innocence or guilt.

    It’s not sanctions targets that is the problem but the sanctions regime itself which now demands too much from claimants and gives too much power to very junior civil servants to sanction people, far too easily, often for the flimsiest of reasons.

    If Labour doesn’t tackle and reform the inherent perversity of the current sanctions regime it doesn’t deserve to be elected.

    Interested parties might like to read the following report published by the Baptist Union of Great Britain, Church Action on Poverty, the Church in Wales, the Church of Scotland, the Methodist Church and the United Reformed Church:




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