Labour today pledges to bring down the number of people using food banks through a new-five-point plan.
The move aims to address the root causes of rising food bank dependency by tackling low pay, ensuring a joined-up approach to food policy in government, and ensuring that the social security system treats people fairly.
Figures from the Trussell Trust charity show that the number of people using food banks has increased from 41,000 in 2009-10 to 913,000 in 2013-14.
Maria Eagle, Labour’s Shadow Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Secretary and Rachel Reeves, Labour’s Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, will set out their five-point action plan today on a visit to a food bank in Central London.
Maria Eagle will say:
“The Tories' attitude to the relentless rise in hunger in Britain speaks volumes for who they stand up for. They refuse to accept any responsibility for it, despite the fact their policies are making it worse.
“Labour will take a strategic and joined-up approach to food policy to ensure that everybody has the chance to eat safe, nutritious and affordable food, now and in the future. Emergency food aid should remain just that - food banks can never be allowed to become a permanent feature of British society.”
Rachel Reeves will say:
“The huge rise in the number of people using food banks in the last few years shows that the social security system in the hands of the Tories is too often letting down those who need its support, with advisers given unfair targets for sanctions rather than support to help people back to work.
“Labour will bring down the number of people using food banks by the end of the next Parliament by tackling low pay, getting a grip of benefit payment delays and ensuring that benefit rules are always implemented fairly and protect the most vulnerable. We want to make sure that nobody has to rely on food banks to put food on the table.”
Labour’s plan to reduce food bank dependency:
1. Tackle low pay, by raising the minimum wage to at least £8 an hour before 2020, promoting a Living Wage, and ending exploitative zero-hours contracts so that working people can bring home enough to feed their families.
2. Ensure a co-ordinated Government approach to food policy, ending the chaos in food policy under the Tories where no minister has taken responsibility for tackling food bank dependency.
3. Get a grip on delayed benefit payments, including Jobseekers Allowance, and Personal Independence Payments for disabled people, which are pushing more people to food banks. Labour will set a target to bring down the number of people who cite delays or mistakes with their benefit payments as their reason for using food banks by the end of the party’s first year in office.
4. Abolish targets for benefit sanctions, by ensuring the system is implemented fairly by raising awareness of hardship payments, reducing waiting times for hardship payments, and making sure protections are in place for the most vulnerable including those with mental health issues, carers, pregnant women and people at risk of domestic violence.
5. Abolish the Bedroom Tax, which has hit over half a million people, two thirds of them disabled, pushing many into debt and through the doors of food banks.