In a serious Freudian slip, a Government minister yesterday denied that there was any link between food poverty and welfare, and suggested instead that the growth in foodbanks is ‘supply-led.’
So there we have it. The real culprits for the growth of food poverty are foodbanks…
Government Minister Lord Freud was challenged by the Bishop of Truro, the Rt Rev Tim Thornton in the House of Lords, over whether ministers conceded a link between the benefits system and food bank use. Lord Freud replied that it was difficult to “make the causal connections”. The minister for welfare reform added: “It is difficult to know which came first – supply or demand. If you put more food banks in, that is the supply. Clearly food from a food bank is by definition a free good and there’s almost infinite demand.”
According to Lord Freud’s wonderful logic, if food banks had not been set up in their hundreds across the country, then 500,000 people would not have used them last year. So – those of you who have put in hours of voluntary labour to set up and run food banks – all you are doing is stoking an almost infinite demand…
Lord Freud also flatly denied that food banks are part of the welfare system, even though the Department for Work and Pensions own official policy (announced in response to the Walking the Breadline report) is for Jobcentre Plus to refer people to foodbanks.
Alice in Wonderland would have been proud
Meanwhile in the real world, food poverty continues to escalate, with almost one in five of the population struggling to feed themselves. That’s not the conclusion of some left-wing think tank or the ‘charity industrial complex’ (as a right wing blogger suggested last month) – but of Tesco.
As the coordinator of a foodbank in Consett, quoted by Baroness Hilary Armstrong in the Lords yesterday said, “Please, please, tell the Government that this is because the benefits system is now inadequate and people are desperate. That’s why they’re coming”.
With Government Ministers in denial, it is all the more reason for an urgent Parliamentary Inquiry into the relationship between benefit delay, error and sanctions, welfare reform and the growth of foodbanks.