And here’s the story of food banks

Volunteers have sounded the alarm over a growing reliance on food banks in one of the richest areas in Britain.

Weekly earnings in Hart in Hampshire, recently named as the most desirable district in the country for quality of life, are a third higher than the national average. But the district also has three food banks, which have given out more than 1,000 emergency food parcels in the past six months.

Anti-poverty campaigners say that, even in wealthy areas such as Hart, benefit changes and low wages are creating growing pockets of desperate need.

“When we opened in 2011, people said, ‘Surely there’s no hardship in Hart?’, but a surprising number of people in this area are in clear need,” said Graham Bunch, the food banks administrator. He said most people who use the service are families and single people aged between 25 and 45. Benefit delays (33%), benefit changes (14%) and low income (20%) are cited as the main reasons. “Each voucher covers three days’ emergency crisis relief food, by which time we hope that the benefit system has caught up and the situation has improved, but it is taking longer for the benefit system to move.”

As you can see, it’s not the level of benefits that is the major problem. It’s the fact that the State is appallingly bad at administering the benefits system.

All of which makes the complaints that people are relying upon private charity rather than the State rather odd really. Assuming we want to actually solve the problem that is….

17 thoughts on “And here’s the story of food banks”

  1. The “system” was never good–but it used to work better before NuBluLabour spent the best part of 20 years fucking it up. A large part of the mess being caused by appointing numerous members of the dim-witted boss class of managers to posts that put them in a position to wreak fad-based havoc.

  2. The reaction of the Left to the slightest criticism of food banks, particularly with regards to their proliferation and usage, I’ve found to be somewhat extreme. Suggesting that it might be anything other than Cruel Tory Cuts leads to a ton of hate and personal abuse; at least that was my experience in this Graun article, the most extreme of which has been removed by the mods – http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/feb/21/food-banks-dignity-hungry-denial-crisis

    With attitudes like that, it gives me no hope that the fuck ups in the system will ever be fixed

  3. JuliaM,

    Every time the Trussell Trust talk about this subject they like to mention that vouchers are given by organisations such as benefit offices and doctors, and fail to mention that churches can also hand out vouchers.

    This really needs someone to turn up at some churches and to see how hard it is to get a voucher. Anyone know how to do some hidden camera filming?

  4. Thanks Julia. call me Mr Cynical, but I was around in the days of the Fatcher Evil Empire. Free stuff? Cue the usual bleeding stump wavers.
    Low income? Well we all suffer from that, don’t we/
    Benefit delays (33%)?
    Thinks…Scratches head…Ah!
    Put in a totally spurious benefit claim. Receive letter said claim is being examined. Bingo! Benefit delay. Free grub please.
    And the politically motivated people running the food banks will be cranking the misery siren for all it’s worth. Food contributors bigging up their part for brownie points.

    So reminiscent of when Red Ken was flying a banner on South Bank about London’s telephone number unemployed. And I couldn’t find anyone to do overpaid work.

  5. So they have given out more than a 1000 in six months, and this is supposed to be a large number? It’s less than 2 a day per foodbank. And they are employing people to manage this?

  6. My local vicar loathes the Trussell Trust and points everybody in need at the Sally Ann. Who do much better (and do do food parcels as well as free at the point of delivery hot food), with much less preaching and fewer bureaucrats.

    Although she does get a bit of cognitive dissonance between her rampant greenery and fuel poverty.

  7. So the take-away point of this story is that even in the face of devastating government incompetence, no-one goes hungry because a private organisation steps up to cover the shortfall? No wonder all the Grauniadistas are getting their knickers in a twist.

  8. We actually have a foodbank here in Strood. My church supports both the foodbank itself and the Strood Community Project which administers it. As far as I know my church does not give out vouchers.

    I concur with Tim’s analysis. The main cause of people being referred to foodbanks is the awful mess the DWP makes of benefits administration. The TARGET timeframe for payment of benefits following a new claim is 3 weeks, and they mostly miss that. That is 3 weeks or more during which claimants may have no means of buying food or paying essential bills.

    I think the people who comment here should spend some time living at the mercy of Government bureaucrats. Then they might be a little more sympathetic.

  9. Sally Ann runs our local foodbank – has done so for several years – and all the local churches (plus Tesco) act as collection agencies for donations. I can’t remember exactly when it started but sometime in the “noughties”.
    @ bis A lot of payment delays are genuine due to the massive incompetence of DWP staff. One local example: a lad is told to get a letter from his doctor in support of an application for ESA, duly does so (this takes time because he has to book an appointment and then it takes time to produce letter), hands it in to local Jobcentre Plus; ‘phones up after waiting for more than a week – it has got lost between local Jobcentre Plus and DWP office, so he has to repeat procedure – and it gets lost again. Two weeks after third attempt (presumably someone relatively competent took over his case) he is told that they don’t want a letter after all, it has to be a medical certificate so he has to make yet another appointment with long-suffering GP. Delay running into months for something that took a day or two a generation ago.

  10. @Frances
    The “timeframe for payment of benefits following a new claim is 3 weeks, and they mostly miss that. ” has been the same for years. Approaching the run-up to the next GE it now becomes something we should be sympathetic about? Why not before?

    My experience has been gained in lending claimants bits of money to tide them over until their bennies got straightened. It was much the same, back in the 80s..

  11. France: “I think the people who comment here should spend some time living at the mercy of Government bureaucrats. Then they might be a little more sympathetic.”

    The lesson being ‘don’t be dependent on the bureaucrats. Get a job’, then?

  12. So Much for Subtlety

    Mr Ecks – “The “system” was never good–but it used to work better before NuBluLabour spent the best part of 20 years fucking it up. A large part of the mess being caused by appointing numerous members of the dim-witted boss class of managers to posts that put them in a position to wreak fad-based havoc.”

    It would be have become crap without them. There is an inevitable rule in organisations – over time they become worse and worse. They hire more and more administration gnomes who do nothing but push paper and create more work for other gnomes. They hire the incompetent and don’t get rid of them. They become side tracked by other goals apart from their core mission.

    There is nothing to be done about it. Companies can only avoid it through a relentless focus on the bottom line but even there, once a company reaches a certain size, more underlings are getting in each other’s way than doing any useful work.

    The British welfare state has existed for about three generations. That is long enough for it to be useless. It will only become more useless over time. Labour may have sped this process up but it is inevitable.

  13. @JuliaM,

    Agreed in general, but given that it’s benefit delays, we are talking, at least partly, about people who have lost their jobs (that “getting of another job” for most people is understandably not instantaneous) and are applying for benefits and not getting those benefits (that they have been paying for) on time. Not about professional scroungers – those people will doubtless be first in line for the food banks despite having the benefits.

    And it seems reasonable, as the state has taken it upon itself to take money off people (thus making it a little harder for them to make provision for themselves) in order to provide for the hard times that fall upon those people, to expect that state to cough up promptly when called upon.

  14. The charity I used to work for issued food bank vouchers, as did many organisations around the area (churches, council, certain companies etc). ‘Can I have a food bank voucher?’ ‘Are you on benefit?’ ‘Yes’ ‘Here you go’. The foodbank may have required more info, those issuing the vouchers not so much.

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