A record 1.6 million food bank parcels have been handed out over the past year according to recent reports from the Trussell Trust. This is a rise of 19% on the previous year, with over 500,000 going to children alone.
This is a damning indictment on this Conservative government, as universal credit delays and a rise in relative poverty alongside harsh benefit cuts have fuelled this steep rise in the charities handouts.
In the last 5 years alone the charity has seen a 73% rise in emergency food supplies, this last year seeing the steepest rise of all as the impact of Universal Credit takes its toll.
Emma Revie, CEO of Trussell Trust explained that this rise is unsustainable and that there is a direct correlation between the five-week window people wait for their first universal credit handout and foodbank use.
Universal Credit should be part of the solution but currently the five-week wait is leaving many without enough money to cover the basics. As a priority, we’re urging the government to end the wait for Universal Credit to ease the pressure on thousands of households.” said Emma upon release of their recent findings.
The rollout of Universal Credit was highlighted as one of the top three reasons for referral to food banks. A fifth of all referrals to food banks last year were as a result of delayed benefits, half of these being linked the Universal Credit. This damaging policy is a political choice and one that we as Labour councillors will fight tooth and nail to ensure we can prevent universal credit being brought in to Swanley and Sevenoaks.
Having personally witnessed the effect of the five-week wait on a family member who has been forced to food banks. Ending the five-week wait should be any Government’s first priority to help create a future without food banks. Universal Credit should be fighting poverty, not forcing people to use food banks.
Another top reason for referral to a food bank in the Trussell Trust network in 2017-18 is ‘income not covering essential costs’ i.e lack of a REAL Living Wage. Sevenoaks and Swanley Labour plan to tackle this too. We pledge to deliver an economy that works for local people and businesses by saying no to austerity, no to poverty as a political choice and yes to local government that supports local businesses and people.
Within this promise we support the ‘Preston Model’ and will deliver this locally, paying everyone who works on the council a living wage and investing in local businesses and people that also pay a living wage. Through this policy we will ensure this terrifying rise in foodbank use does not continue on our watch.
The UK is the 5th largest economy in the world and it is a stain on our reputation globally that we see such a steep rise in foodbank use, homelessness and child poverty.
Only a vote for Labour on May 2nd in the local elections will say NO to austerity, NO to food bank use and YES to local government that supports local businesses and people for the many, not the few.
By Charlie Zahra
Labour Candidate for Sevenoaks District Council & Swanley Town Council (White Oak ward)