Wednesday, 16 April 2014

'Shocking' rise in the use of food banks - enough to make an Ipswich Tory yawn!

Today has seen the release of a report by the charity, the Trussell Trust that showed there had been a ‘shocking’ 51% rise in people using their established food banks. This is a rise from 347,000 people using the service in 12/13 to 913,000 people using it in 13/14.

What makes the figures more worrying is these statistics are just for the food banks that the Trussell Trust runs, with all food banks included the number of people using food banks will be well over a million in the last year.

The Government disputes that the rise in the use of food banks is linked to welfare reform but the Trust has data that shows that 83% of food banks reported that benefit sanctions has resulted in people being referred to them and that 30% of visits to food banks were put down to a delay in welfare payments.

Lib Dems have kept quiet about the report but Tories have been quick to attack the report, after the Daily Mirror used a picture of a child crying ( the picture was from the USA and not of a child at a food bank – imagine the furore if they had used a picture of a child at a food bank!) Tories have just claimed it is left wing papers and left wing commentators using this story to take away the shine from improved employment figures.

The Tories seem keen to ignore the fact that the Trussell Trust is a non-political charity and that the report was coupled with a letter from leading members of the clergy urging to government to do more to eradicate the need for food banks in 21st Century Britain.

Here in Ipswich we had the deputy leader of the Tory Group tweeting a yawn as she seemed bored by the news that more people than ever were using food banks, she then got into a number of twitter conversations/arguments about the use of food banks with her final line of defence being she was not on about the real poor. Cllr Cenci tweeted; “the really poor area tiny minority. Most can afford coke, crisps etc”

She like many Tories seem to forget that many for many food banks you have to be sent to them by an agency, you just can't turn up. Even a government commissioned report stated that many people find it hard to go and use a food bank.

Many on twitter seem stunned by her comments, her next line of defence was to tell everyone that she was a single parent for 10 years with no benefits; she seemed to forget that she did receive child benefit throughout that time.

Her rhetoric did not surprise me; it seemed to be repeated by many on the right, an attempt to demonise those who needed to use food banks, not willing to listen to those who have had to use them. Even on ‘Loose Women’ – not my usual TV viewing, they had a lady on who had to live off food banks, she eloquently described why and how she used them. Again not sure you could describe ‘Loose Women’ as part of the left wing press group!

It is a worry when it seems politicians, especially local are quick to make assumptions on people without trying to find out the true facts. It seems local Tories are in a race to the bottom with UKIP to demonise as many people as possible.

I was very proud at Christmas, when my oldest daughter helped organise a food collection at her work, so they could make a large donation to a food bank, it was not till she did that did I really understand how much food banks are needed, even in Ipswich.

Whilst on the other hand we have a local Tory MP, Tim Yeo unaware there was even a food bank in his constituency and here in Ipswich we have the Deputy leader of the Tory group bored by the whole discussion on the need for food banks and attempting to demonise those who use them by indicating that many can afford coke and crisps!

Tory Cllr Cenci can often seem to hold quite radical views on twitter but I am not surprised by the negative comments she has received after her ‘yawn’ tweet – she seems to have joined Tory MP Ester McVey in ‘the unpopular Tory on twitter’ group.

Her ill thought comments even managed to get the attention of a well know radio broadcaster – radio DJ, Nick Ferrari from LBC, he repeated Cllr Cenci’s tweet about food banks and yawn – adding after the tweet ‘Nasty Party’ – again not sure many would describe Nick Ferrari ‘of the left!’

We can all make mistakes on twitter, and if you do – apologise (and unlike Ester McVey mean it) but Cllr Cenci seems not able to admit she had got it wrong about food banks – in her mind she is right and all the left and the Mirror are wrong! Not sure the Trussell Trust, the clergy (including the Archbishop of Wales), Loose Women and Nick Ferrari will be happy to described as ‘left wing’. Fact is over a million people each year are using food banks, that should not be acceptable in the sixth richest economy in the world.

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