Thursday, 25 April 2013

Food Banks

The number of people using foodbanks is going through the roof, not surprisingly given the government's policy of hitting the poor at every possible opportunity. The Guardian has a good article here about the Trussell Trust foodbanks. Chris Mould, who they interviewed, sounds like the right sort, but Tory influences lurk not very far behind the scenes, as you can see from this article. With jobcentres issuing foodbank vouchers, it all feels very much like an updated version of the workhouse; workfare and gruel (you won't manage much more on £71 a week) for the indigent poor.
Oxfam have now got involved with foodbanks, perhaps a little reluctantly. According to the article here, they at least seem to be  willing to express a political view of the situation.

I'm quite involved with a local foodbank, which uses my church one day a week. Numbers vary from week to seek; the average is probably in the low twenties, including both single people and families, but last week it reached a record 37. It's too early to say whether that's a one-off or the result of the latest round of cuts. Benefit problems are the commonest reason for people to come, but we also get refugees,  people with debts, or have low-paid jobs and a big bill, all sorts. We have a benefit adviser who never lacks for clients.

 Everything has to be carried in through a rather awkward entrance with several doors, and dumped in the kitchen. We have a storage cupboard which makes life easier. 

Tea and coffee are available while people wait. the clothes come from the church charity shop. It's been going for many years, run by volunteers from the church. Clothes are sold very cheaply, or often given away. the ones on the rack are 20p a garment. The flags were put up by a refugee group which uses the premises.

We've just started a new drop-in advice centre two days a week at the Community Centre a couple of hundred yards up the road. It's run by local churches and a community project, working together. It only opened this week and it's too early to say how it's going to develop, but I had an interesting morning helping people with benefit claims. I've had plenty of experience of that, and very little of debt advice, but there are other people who know what they're doing with that side of it. Most of it's either benefits or debt, but we can help with housing advice as well. It's a case of playing it by ear for a few months, running it on a volunteer basis, and then applying for funding which should (hopefully) be available from August.

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