Despite the so called crisis in the banking sector, one type of bank’s use 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 a three day supply of food. Most of the food banks have been set up by the Trussell fund linking in to local churches. They claim to be a non political but have strong links with the conservative party.
Chris Mould the director has links with The Shaftsbury group 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 Shaftsbury group 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 rather than the crisis loan 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 Fund 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 ESA and placed onto job seekers allowance despite being unfit for work for many years is typical of many people who are forced to use a food bank. In Scotland there has been a 150% increase in the number of people having to use one. Half of these are casualties of benefit cuts and direct result of their benefits being reduced withdrawn or stopped. A month ago after found fit for work by ATOS her 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 disributed. 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 is collected from members of the charity and are all tins and packets. 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 disributed to the needy. There is also no fresh food available though some food banks 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 government paid out 228 million pound 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 contolled 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 mean hunger and starvation. It is not acceptable that when Cameron takes his place in the G8 this week thousands are having to rely on charity to eat. Unfortunately for many Food Banks are the only option they have in a very harsh financial climate.