Claire Perry, MP for Devizes - Welcome support for food banks but I have concerns (From This Is Wiltshire)
Claire Perry, MP for Devizes - Welcome support for food banks but I have concerns
12:00pm Thursday 19th December 2013 in Latest News
We ended the 2013 Parliamentary session with a variety of interesting and relevant debates and while one of the few drawbacks of my new job is that I am not allowed to speak at length in the Chamber, I do get to listen to long stretches of proceedings.
The growth in the use of food banks which we debated on Wednesday was particularly interesting, although made far too partisan by an opposition determined to cynically hijack the valuable work of excellent organisations for political ends – and as food bank usage rose ten-fold under Labour even during the “boom” years, their shouting sounds a little hollow.
We have had food banks operating across the UK for decades, operated on a small scale and in many cases supported by different churches, (and. in a way, the typical harvest festival collection is a community food bank scheme) but more recently these efforts have become unified and professionalised and for that we have to thank the excellent Trussell Trust based in Salisbury that is the leading charity in this area and the one that has helped our outstanding local organisation, the Devizes and Marlborough Food Bank.
I always support food collection drives whenever I see them and it is wonderful to see so many people and so many local businesses being so generous with donations, meaning that the supply of foodstuffs has increased and there have also been welcome government policy changes since the election to make it easier for people to hear about and access the services – Job Centres can now alert people signing on to the existence of local food banks and therefore ensure that they get the referral vouchers required to access the service – something the last government refused to do.
It is also heartening to learn that 92 per cent of benefits are now paid on time; up six per cent since 2010 as one of the main drivers of use of food banks is delay and disarray in benefit payments. But, it does make me uneasy that at a time when the economy is recovering sharply, unemployment locally is tumbling (down 20 per cent since last November) and the organisation crisis loans has been devolved to local authorities and can now be agreed on the same day, more people are accessing emergency food supplies – especially in the run up to Christmas.
I am going to be quietly working in our local centre in the Christmas week and am looking forward to hearing more about what they do – and what more I can do to help.
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