Friday, 1 May 2015

Poverty in Sidmouth: Sid Valley Food Bank: playing politics

Two and a half years ago, Sidmouth's food bank was set up to cater for growing needs:
Sidmouth food bank to help the hard-up - News - Sidmouth Herald

Sidmouth is a wealthy part of the country, but poverty clearly exists:
Futures Forum: Poverty in Sidmouth: Sid Valley Food Bank: "demand has quadrupled in just a year"

The issue has been brought up during the current parliamentary election campaign:

Food banks ‘not political’

12:30 28 April 2015 Stephen Sumner

Hugo Swire at the food bank in Sidmouth with Ian Skinner and volunteers Renee Forth and Margaret Newman. Ref shs 5871-17-15TI. Picture: Terry Ife

The latest politician to drop in at the Sid Valley Food Bank was the Conservative vying to be re-elected as East Devon’s MP – who insisted that the issue is not a political one.

Hugo Swire said it was important to avoid users becoming dependent on the food bank and they should be encouraged to learn to cook for themselves.

The centre, based in the Unitarian Church, has also been visited by Labour’s parliamentary candidate Steve Race, and Claire Wright, who is standing as an independent.

“We have to be careful to instil the idea of responsibility,” said Mr Swire. “There will always be people who can’t manage their own affairs.”

The Sid Valley Food Bank opened in 2012, under the Coalition, but he said: “As the Archbishop of Canterbury said, this is a complex issue and not a political issue. I think it’s a very useful role for the churches and the community to play and one that’s always gone on in one way or another. It’s what the Big Society is about. The key is to encourage people who come to understand why they are coming.”

Mr Swire added: “No one should have to be dependent on a food bank. What concerns me is the elderly people who are perhaps not getting enough to eat, but are embarrassed and feel it’s beneath them.”

Seventy volunteers run the 
food bank, which links with 12 other community organisations to take a multilateral approach to 

Mrs Wright described her visit as ‘sobering’ and said: “It’s so important that politicians speak to people from all walks of life.” She met a man who could not afford to feed himself in the winter, and although he fared better in the summer, jobs were difficult to reach by public transport.

Mr Race said: “Visiting the Sid Valley Food Bank - one of three food banks in the East Devon constituency - brought home to me the tough situations that people face. We need a Government that works to ensure people don’t have to access food banks.”

Food banks ‘not political’ - Election - Sidmouth Herald

The East Devon Watch blog offers this commentary:
What Hugo Swire thinks of people who use food banks | East Devon Watch

Meanwhile at the Exmouth food bank, there have been pleas not to politicise the issue:

No single cause for rising demand at food banks

14:43 26 April 2014 Dave Beasley

Major Steven Watson-Minister at the Salvation Army Church and manager Anthony Bernard are pictured in the Exmouth Community Larder. Photo by Simon Horn. Ref exe 4336-18-13SH To order your copy of this photograph go to www.exmouthjournal.co.uk and click on MyPhotos24.

The manager of Exmouth’s food bank has urged people not to ‘politicise’ the increase in food parcels being given out by blaming it on changes to benefits.

Anthony Bernard, manager of Exmouth Community Larder, said that all governments were equally to blame and that 30 years of easy credit and 70 years of a welfare state also played a part. He also said that food banks should also be seen as something negative but also as a return to traditional community ‘values’.

The numbers of people helped by the Exmouth Community Larder increased by 700 per cent over the last year, when compared to the previous year. And more food was donated than ever before and more food packages were given out.

This week food bank charity The Trussell Trust says it has handed out 913,000 food parcels in the last year, up from 347,000 the year before. The trust, the largest food bank provider in the UK, said benefits payments had been a particular problem since welfare changes were introduced just over a year ago. Some 83 per cent of food banks reported that benefits sanctions - when payments are temporarily stopped - had resulted in more people being referred for emergency food.

Mr Bernard said: “The people we serve are our purpose; those of us who do have food for our tables serving those who are in trouble for one reason or another.

“There are attempts to politicise the need for food banks around benefit cuts. Years ago mutual support was normal in a neighbourhood or village; 70 years of the ‘welfare state’, whether managed by Labour or Tory, has created a mood that expects the state to look after the people next door.

“Thirty years of encouragement to boost the economy by buying on the never-never, whether managed by Tory or Labour, has edged many people into unsustainable debt.

“The Community Larder and foodbanks mark the start of a return to the old values of supporting each other across society. And, of course, people in agencies working to help clients out of their dilemmas. A food emergency is often the final bump, but people patiently working with clients to rise above their underlying crisis is critical to providing the support they need.”

No single cause for rising demand at food banks - News - Exmouth Journal

In November last year, the Trussell trust issued further figures:
Foodbank-use for south west children 'quadruples since 2011' - BBC News

And meanwhile, there was the 'joke' about benefits claimants:
Hugo Swire filmed cracking jokes about people on benefits at glamorous party fundraiser | Daily Mail Online
Tory MP Hugo Swire makes 'joke' about benefit claimants - YouTube
Update: East Devon MP Hugo Swire defends benefits claimants joke at Tory fundraiser | Exeter Express and Echo
Letters: East Devon residents react to Hugo Swire's benefits claimants joke | Exeter Express and Echo
Swire’s benefits gag is no joke to election rivals - Election - Exmouth Journal

No comments: