Food poverty charity the Trussell Trust has hit out at claims by a government minister that the coalition’s welfare reforms policy is not to blame for a dramatic rise in food bank usage.
The charity said that the government’s welfare reforms, including the controversial ‘bedroom tax’, had “exacerbated” the need for food banks in the UK.
The comments came in response to a letter sent by employment minister Esther McVey, writing to the Scottish parliament claiming that “the rise in food banks predates most of the welfare reforms this government has put in place”. The Scottish National Party described the letter as “heartless”.
But Ewan Gurr, regional development officer at the Trussell Trust, said, “All the empirical evidence and research shows that welfare reform is the main force driving increasing demand for food banks.”
The charity, which supports more than 400 foodbanks across the UK, predicted last year that it had handed out around half a million emergency food parcels.
“Food banks are responding to a need that has always existed but welfare reform has exacerbated that”, Gurr added.
“The rising cost of food and fuel is also a factor driving in the need for food banks but all the research indicates the key factor is welfare reform.
“All we are asking is that the UK government takes note of this and provides some creative solutions. In 2012/13 the Trussell Trust supported 14,318 people. In the past financial year we supported 71,428. The numbers speak for themselves.”
McVey recently said in a debate on food poverty in December that “it is right to say that more people are visiting food banks, as we would expect”.
She added, “Times are tough and we all have to pay back the £1.5 trillion of personal debt.”
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