Tory welfare minister, Lord Freud, caused anger today, after suggesting the steep rise in the number of people visiting food banks had nothing to do with coalition welfare cuts.
The minister suggested that more people were turning to charitable food banks simply because more existed, and he denied the coalition were using food banks to fill the holes left by welfare cuts, despite the fact that people are being referred to food banks by jobcentre’s.
Lord Freud told members of the House of Lords that:
“Food banks are absolutely not part of the welfare system that we run. We have other systems to support people.”, and that “If you put more food banks in, that is the supply. Clearly food from a food bank is by definition a free good and there’s almost infinite demand.”
Pushed by the Rt. Rev. Tim Thornton as to whether Mr Freud thought that there could be a link between the number of people using food banks and cuts to welfare benefits, he replied:
“It is difficult to know which came first – supply or demand.”
His comments were met with shock and condemnation on opposition benches and charities alike, as well as accusations of being ‘out-of-touch’ with the reality that a growing number of people are being forced to turn to food banks to feed their families.
Chris Mould, chief executive of the Trussell Trust, who have over 325 food banks across the country, responded to Lord Freud’s comments by telling the Independent newspaper that: “The only people who seem unable to accept there is a social crisis driven by the cost of living is the Government.” He continued:
“It’s absolutely clear there is a growing demand for emergency food supply. That is the consequence of a growing problem with people making ends meet… there is lots of evidence to that effect.”
The director of Oxfam’s UK Poverty Programme, Chris Johnes said:
“These comments don’t bear much relation to the reality. The fact is that food banks are stepping in to fill a gap left by the welfare system.” He continued by saying: “The evidence is very clear that people are going to food banks out of real need. They feel a sense of stigma that they can’t feed themselves and their families.”
The number of people forced to turn to food banks has more than tripled since the coalition took office with more than 500,000 now reliant upon the service they provide. There is widespread fear among charities that the number of people using food banks will continue to rise, and that changes to benefits requiring people to wait at least a week before they can make a claim, will push the numbers up even further.
Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, Liam Byrne MP, told the Independent:
“These comments show just how out of touch this Government is. The welfare revolution we were promised has failed. Unemployment is up, the benefits bill is soaring £20bn higher than planned, and food banks are growing by the day, yet the only ones getting any extra help from this Government are millionaires.”
Anger As Freud Insists Increase In Food Bank Usage Not A Result Of Welfare Cuts by Welfare News Service is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/demand-for-food-banks-has-nothing-to-do-with-benefits-squeeze-says-lord-freud-8684005.html.