As part of pre-General Election coverage last week, senior Conservative and former justice minister Dominic Raab said that people who use food banks do not because they are “languished in poverty” but because they have “cashflow problems”.
Thank you for troubling yourself to understand what motivates people at the most acute end of income inequality to use foodbanks. As a Conservative politician we would be forgiven for having low expectations of your social awareness, so instead invite you to look at the Trussell Trust figures you cite.
The same data reports the primary reason for 28% of foodbanks referrals during 2015-16 was “benefit delays”, followed by “low income” 23%, and “benefit changes” 13%. Overall, 42% of referrals in 2015-16 needed a foodbank due to benefit issues. In the three months following your party’s welfare changes (sanctions, delays, bedroom tax to name just a few) Trussell Trust alone witnessed a 200% rise in use.
To access their foodbanks you don’t simply roll up and collect a week’s worth of shopping. You must be referred by your GP, social worker, or case worker after they’ve assessed your health and/or your finances. A voucher is then exchanged for an emergency parcel containing pasta, sauce, rice – the most basic of items.
Once you have your parcel your problems haven’t ended here: no money for food can mean no gas or leccy in the meter to cook.
Or because *stuff* happens. Maybe you’re a new tenant after fleeing abuse, the death of a family member, overcoming homelessness. Local authority housing comes with no appliances – meaning cold baked beans, soup, and cereal are the only things in your parcel you can now feasibly eat.
People don’t put themselves through the gruelling and humiliating process of using foodbanks for the thrill. They are very simply (i) hungry (ii) don’t have enough money.
And this matters because welfare is the responsibility of your UK government, and the role your policy of austerity plays in the deepening chasm of income inequality and the damage it does to people’s health and happiness. It is the accumulative and punishing effect of inequality combined with UK government policy that’s caused this unprecedented increase in destitution in a wealthy society.
So yes, people are “languishing in poverty” but the very best humour languishes there too. That the patter of being immediately, and persistently, skint is modestly referred to as “a cashflow problem” by those experiencing it makes your comments irk further.
Over the last two general elections your party has tried desperately to repackage yourselves as for the people (despite being the utter antithesis of this). If you just work hard you can do anything. “We’re all in this together”. Your comments prove the tory mind frame never changed: poverty is our choice and our fault.
So cashflow problems? Aye. Poverty is an incredibly long-term cash flow problem, its rise owed in no small part to successive years of the tory ideology of flat out war on the poor.
Blog by Catherine McGarrell