Cam­paigner’s plea to make food banks part of the so­cial se­cu­rity sys­tem

The Herald on Sunday - - THE BIG READ -

FOOD banks should be backed with Gov­ern­ment cash and brought un­der the aus­pices of the so­cial se­cu­rity sys­tem, ac­cord­ing to one of their pi­o­neers in Scot­land.

Mark Fran­k­land, of Dum­fries-based First Base, which gives out 4,000 food parcels a year across Dum­fries and Gal­loway, said: “There seems to be a com­plete de­ter­mi­na­tion never to treat food banks as part of the wel­fare state, but 90 per cent of our re­fer­rals come from peo­ple work­ing for the state – from Job­cen­tres, so­cial work­ers, home­less teams.

“Peo­ple say ‘we want to get rid of food banks’. But if they hadn’t been around, you might well have seen peo­ple starve.”

Fran­k­land, who re­cently gave ev­i­dence at Holy­rood’s So­cial Se­cu­rity Com­mit­tee, said with food and child poverty ex­pected to spike over the next five years, the Gov­ern­ment should con­sider fund­ing food banks. “That would let us put more items in a food parcels, such as fresh fruit and veg or vouch­ers for peo­ple who run out of power.

“If what is on of­fer from the DWP isn’t enough to keep body and soul to­gether, we are there to be con­sid­ered,” he said. “I don’t think the sys­tem would be abused. Peo­ple gen­er­ally hate walk­ing through our doors un­less they ab­so­lutely have to.”

He added: “We treat peo­ple very dif­fer­ently from a bu­reau­crat. Why is it so bad for some­one to go and get a bag of food, do­nated by peo­ple who give a damn, rather than turn­ing up at an of­fice to get £10 from a grudg­ing bu­reau­crat?”

How­ever, poverty cam­paign­ers re­ject the sugges­tion that emer­gency food parcels should be­come one of the el­e­ments of on of­fer from the wel­fare state. Pe­ter Kelly, di­rec­tor of the Poverty Al­liance, said: “We sup­port food banks, I give to them my­self all the time. But no mat­ter how much food banks are needed they are not a suf­fi­cient re­sponse. If our re­sponse to poverty be­comes less based on se­cu­rity and peo­ple’s rights and more to do with char­i­ta­ble giv­ing and do­na­tions, that is likely to be stig­ma­tis­ing.”

He said he had “max­i­mum” re­spect for all those run­ning food banks and vol­un­teer­ing at them, but said: “It is part of the re­sponse, but

needs to be time-lim­ited. It is a tem­po­rary re­sponse to cri­sis, not a main­stream re­sponse to a sys­temic prob­lem.”

Polly Jones, project man­ager of Menu for Change, which ar­gues for al­ter­na­tives to emer­gency food aid, said: “Peo­ple run­ning food banks do it out of the best in­ten­tions. They are try­ing to step up and help. But the idea it should be pulled in as part of our uni­ver­sal so­cial se­cu­rity sys­tem is the wrong ap­proach.

“We need to make so­cial se­cu­rity sys­tems work bet­ter and fix the holes in the safety net first.

“If food banks worked, peo­ple wouldn’t go back again, but, in fact, the vast ma­jor­ity us­ing food banks do re­turn, at least once.”

Fran­k­land also claimed peo­ple on low in­comes were be­ing hard­hit by price rises from ma­jor su­per­mar­kets, which he ac­cused of qui­etly rais­ing the price of some of their cheap­est items.

The shop­ping bill for First Base, which tops up do­nated food to en­sure parcels are nu­tri­tion­ally bal­anced, has dou­bled in a year, he said, from £1,000 a month to £2,000 a month. While the char­ity has seen a 10 per cent in­crease in de­mand, the bulk of the cost has come from price rises on su­per­mar­kets’ value ranges, he said.

“It seems to be stan­dard pol­icy to limit avail­abil­ity and raise prices in their value ranges. Tesco has got rid of many of its ‘value’ prod­ucts and re­placed them with other brands, while value range longer life milk has dis­ap­peared from the shelves. It used to cost us 49p a litre, now the next cheap­est op­tion is 79.

“We are see­ing un­be­liev­able price rises on food at the low­est end of the mar­ket. It feels as if they are tar­get­ing the very poor­est cus­tomers so they can keep their main range prices the same.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.