Thursday, 29 October 2015

Duncan-Smith to police foodbanks. Will charities stand for this?

At a recent meeting of the Tameside Food Bank Forum (T.F.F.), which met last week at the Ashton-under-Lyne volunteer centre, a food bank representative reported that it was his experience that increasingly more people in-work were visiting food banks to obtain free food. People who fall into this category, in Britain, have been dubbed the 'working-poor'.

More than one million people visited the food banks run by the charity 'Trussell Trust', in 2014-2015 to obtain free food. Government benefit sanctions are blamed, in part, for the rise in the numbers of people relying on food banks to feed themselves and their families. 

In some local supermarkets in Tameside, such as 'Morrisons', in Dukinfield, customers have been asked if they would like to make food donations to the food banks to help those in need. Tameside Hospital, is also planning to open an on-site permanent food bank after doctors and nurses became concerned about the significant rise in patients showing signs of malnourishment. The hospital food bank aims to boost nutrition for patients and residents in the area.

Why  some many people should be unable to feed themselves in the UK, now ranked the fourth richest country in the world, is an appalling indictment on British society. Yet since the 1980's, the countries with the most marked increase in income inequality have been the UK and the U.S. which led the world in pro-rich policies. The Cambridge economist, Ha-Joon Chang, in his book 'Economics: the user's guide', writes:

"Markets are routinely rigged in favour of the rich as we have seen in the scandals about misselling of financial products and lies told to regulators. Money gives the super-rich the power to legally or illegally buy up politicians and political offices... We are persuaded to accept what I call the L' Oreal principle - if some people are paid tens of millions of pounds per year, it must be because they are worth it."  

The stigmatization of benefit claimants, has led to state benefits remaining unclaimed. HMRC estimates that £16 billion of benefits have gone unclaimed. Tax Justice and the trade union the P.C.S, claim that £120 billion of tax is avoided, evaded and uncollected. At a time when the government is cutting tax credits for some people in work, there is a £30 billion surplus in the national insurance fund which has arisen due to benefit cuts.

Chris Mould, Chairman of the Trussell Trust, said recently that cuts in Working Tax Credits were likely to lead to more people being forced to rely on food banks for support. Perhaps this is why Ian Duncan Smith, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, recently announced that the DWP want to put their staff into food banks. This measure which should be resisted by charities, is probably designed to allow the DWP to police who is claiming from the food banks, but might also be designed, to discourage people from claiming. How long will be, before the DWP Gestapo is in the parlour, monitoring how much food is on our plates?

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