Labour has today pledged to cut the number of people relying on food banks in the next Parliament, through a five point plan which will tackle the root causes of rising food bank dependency.
Figures from the Trussell Trust show that the number of people using their emergency food banks increased from 741 in 2011-12 to 87,693 in 2014-15. Nationally, emergency food bank use increased from 41,000 in 2009-10 to 1,084,604 in 2014-15. Meanwhile, the number of jobs paying less than a living wage has risen by 1.5 million (44%) under David Cameron, and there are now 1.8 million people on zero-hour contracts.
Labour is the only party with a plan to reduce food bank dependency. A future Labour government will:
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 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 its 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.
Louise Baldock, Labour’s Parliamentary Candidate for Stockton South, said:
“It’s a scandal that the world’s 5th richest nation has over a million people visiting a food bank for emergency food relief - over 87,000 of them from the North East. My Tory opponent has failed to ask a single Parliamentary question about Food Banks in the last 5 years. The residents of Stockton South deserve better.
"Last night at a hustings held by Thrive in Stockton Mr Wharton said there was a rise in Food Bank attendance because there were being advertised better. He is completely out of touch with reality.
“Only Labour has a plan to tackle food bank dependency. A future Labour government will tackle low pay, get a grip on delayed benefit payments, ensure government has a coordinated approach to food policy and abolish the bedroom tax.”
Maria Eagle, Labour’s Shadow Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Secretary said:
“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 that their policies are making the situation 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 and food banks can never be allowed to become a permanent feature of British society.”