The Tories have built an economy that works for the few, leaving the rest of us in a deep cost of living crisis. And no matter how many times George Osborne claims that the economy is recovering, we all know that for many this is simply not the case.
Today the Trussell Trust reported that the use of food banks in the UK has risen by a staggering 51% since last year. Nearly 1 million people received emergency food from the Trussell Trust alone. Their Chief Executive Chris Mould said that ‘In the last year we’ve seen things get worse, rather than better, for many people on low-incomes. It’s been extremely tough for a lot of people, with parents not eating properly in order to feed their children and more people than ever experiencing seemingly unfair and harsh benefits sanctions’.
These figures will not shock or surprise many of my constituents - who tell me they are finding it very difficult to put a meal on the table. It is becoming an ongoing struggle to keep up with rising food prices and whilst wages stay stagnant, we are seeing increasing numbers of working households left with no money well before the end of the month.
There are many reasons why people in my constituency have had to turn to food banks for help - including high levels of unemployment, low and stagnant wages and benefit delays – some constituents tell me that they have to survive for eight weeks without any money. In my constituency, one food bank in South Elmsall has given out 796 parcels of food in just five months – feeding approximately 333 individuals, including children.
I believe the number of people in food poverty to be much higher than reported; statistics relating to food poverty are unreliable, the Government does not track the statistics and charities who try to have limited resources. Furthermore, many individuals in food poverty may not be able to afford the transport costs to reach a food bank or may not turn to food banks for help, instead suffering in silence.
However, despite being saddened by so many needing to turn to food banks in my area, I would also like to say that I am proud to see people in my constituency coming together as an even tighter community during these hard times. Lots of people are only too willing to look out for neighbours, operate food banks or donate food at the supermarkets. It really is admirable, but in the 21st century it is a national disgrace how so many people have no choice but to rely on food packages just to scrape by.
I believe, not having the confidence to know you can adequately feed yourself, your family and pay your bills not only affects your physical wellbeing but also social and mental wellbeing. Eating nutritious meals and not having to constantly worry about where your next meal is going to come from should be possible for everyone.
In the UK, a country which has the sixth largest economy in the world, we should not see people going hungry. The Government need to do more and stop disproportionately harming those who are already struggling whilst sticking up for the few at the top. The Government need to wake up and realise there is a real problem here, the prevalence and usage of food banks just shows the levels of poverty that their policies have produced.
Labour would look at the root of the problem; starting with the terribly unfair bedroom tax, unemployment and low wages. Labour would get young people off benefits and into work with a compulsory jobs guarantee, freeze energy bills until 2017, expand free childcare for 3 and 4 year olds and build more homes . Labour would also reverse the deeply unfair £3 billion tax cut for the top one per cent of earners - to drive the deficit down in a fairer way.
Labour will build an economy that works for working people, so we can see an economic recovery for all, not just the few.