Cuts to benefits have pushed thousands of families to the edge, not just a few, thousands! Welfare needs to be paid on the basis of need, not within some artificial limit.
Food bank use in south east England, the region known for its wealth and relative prosperity, my home, is up over 60% this year and thousands of families face the prospect of relying on emergency food handouts this Christmas. A decade ago, food banks were almost unheard of in this area but there are now 59 across the region.
We know this thanks to a report from Green MEP Keith Taylor, who’s released ‘Hungry Christmas‘, a report into the spread of food banks in his region. The report is published ahead of a debate on food banks in Parliament on Thursday, which came after the public demonstrated its understanding of the issue, with more than 100,000 people signing a petition on the subject within four days, possibly a record for the official government site. A group of public health experts have concluded that the rate of food poverty in Britain should be classed as a medical emergency.
As this report highlights, three new food banks are set up every week to help meet demand. Cuts to benefits such as housing benefit, child benefit and council tax benefit have pushed people to the edge. Increasing use of unreasonable sanctions that leave already desperate households with no income at all, force them to turn to charity. But the rise of food banks is not just a result of government’s welfare policies, but it does show how welfare cuts are a critical part of the process, and that’s certainly what Keith’s report demonstrates for this one region.
A living wage is a salary people can live on, feed themselves and their children. It would give people back some control over their lives and the ability to plan for the future rather than live a hand to mouth existence. Now that really would be a Merry Christmas.