Stephen Hepburn MP: Foodbanks are the result of Tory cruelty

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No wonder the country’s hungry for change when the number of households relying on the charity of foodbanks to survive is up 300 % in our region since the Tories grabbed power nationally.

The figure given to me by the Citizens Advice Bureau is a shocking indictment of the misrule by the Conservatives and their allies since 2010.

The popular misconception that people queue up on a daily basis for a food parcel is wrong as typically a recipient is entitled to only three parcels a year.

Every case is a desperate story of an individual or family here on South Tyneside who would be unable to eat without the help of churches, volunteers and generous donors.

Each case is referred by somebody in authority – maybe a doctor, head teacher, police, welfare adviser or a social worker – worried about the physical and mental health of the dispossessed.

And each and every case is a condemnation of Conservative cruelty when the poor many are treated like dirt and a rich few are showered with tax cuts.

Some unemployed people are forced to wait up to eight weeks without any income whatsoever for their first payment of Universal Credit, which the Tories are currently rolling out in the Jarrow constituency.

How can anyone manage without any income for two months?

Those on benefits, low pay or in jobs that are so insecure that last maybe only days or weeks never earn enough to build up savings.

So it’s no wonder they’re left with no choice but to rely on foodbanks.

An Oxford University study found users of foodbanks endure serious poverty and hardship, struggling to buy food and pay bills such as gas and electricity.

Shockingly the university’s report concludes people living with a disability or serious illness who are in receipt of benefits are much more likely to be referred to foodbanks. As are single parents who deserve support and a medal for bringing up kids on their own yet instead receive a kick in the teeth from the Tory Government.

It makes my blood boil when I hear Tory politicians and others sounding off, smearing the desperately poor as “lazy scroungers” who buy luxuries instead of food when the organisers of foodbanks know the terrible truth.

Without a doubt the biggest driver behind the increase in foodbanks up here are callous Conservative benefit sanctions.

Stopping people’s employment benefit for petty reasons is hateful, vindictive abuse by a system politicised by Tories scheming to set the working and workless poor against each other to divide and rule.

During the election a Tory Minister was rightly pilloried for falsely claiming the main reason people use foodbanks is “cash flow problems” when they can’t manage their money.

The Minister was rightly mocked and laughed at and I like to think his ivory tower prejudice played its own little part in Theresa May and the Conservative losing their Parliamentary majority as Labour fought back.

I pay tribute to everybody who is involved in organising foodbanks such as Churches Together in South Tyneside who co-ordinate with a number of community groups across the Borough to provide the wide-range of support required. Further information can be found on their website www.southtynesidechurches.co.uk/Foodbanks.htm

They are the best of British but I also look forward to the day they can put their feet up because everybody’s paid enough or cared for without relying on charity.

Another world is possible. Let’s make it happen.