Government's benefit cuts force food bank use - report

Wed, 09/04/2014 - 12:52 -- nick

The government's benefit reforms are forcing some of Britain's poorest people to use food banks - despite all official denials.

According to a report by Sheffield University researcher Hannah Lambie-Mumford cited in today's Guardian, the link is now proven, despite a recent official government report reiterating that an increase in food bank use was not due to its welfare cuts.

Her study said the rise was a clear signal "of the inadequacy of both social security provision and the processes by which it is delivered".

The plot thickens here; Lambie-Mumford was one of the authors of the government report denying the link, which raises questions on whether there was official interference in its conclusions.

Her new findings in fact come from interviews she conducted with 25 food bank workers in 2012 and 2013, so any conclusions she has come to now must also have been valid for the government report.

She believes that "arbitrary and unfair" sanctions, benefit cuts and a jobcentre service that appears to be unable to process payments consistently and without delays are at the heart of the problems faced, but also recognises how political the issue has become.

"The tricky thing is that welfare reform is the most political aspect of a political issue. But we should not shy away from it for this reason," she said.

Lambie-Mumford fears that, with more and more people using food banks and official referrals from jobcentres and local authorities now commonplace, they will become part of the everyday welfare state.

Food banks are not designed for this use; the biggest provider, the Trussell Trust, only allows three referrals per person per year, and coverage is not consistent over the whole country.

This is one reason why the state took over the provision of welfare; charities are not designed to provide a nationwide safety net, and only the government has the resources to deliver for everyone in need.

Lambie-Mumford will today present her findings to a committee of MPs that will set the terms for an inquiry into food bank usage and other food poverty issues.

The Trussell Trust will release its yearly usage figures next week, and these are expected to show a doubling of the numbers it serves.

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