The policies of the current Tory-Lib Dem government have seen and explosion in food bank use across the country, from 61,468 people receiving emergency food aid in 2010-11 to 913,138 in 2013-14 from the Trussell Trust, the UK’s biggest food bank network.
According to the Trust 83% of food back referrals are due to the benefits sanction regime introduced by the Coalition Government, with families struggling to make ends meet or even put food on the table.
Across the North East & Cumbria last year over 59,000 people needed the help of one food bank organisation, The Trussell Trust.
Labour has a 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.