By Paul Maynard MP Blackpool North and Cleveleys
Standing in a church hall last week discussing the need for a foodbank in the constituency might seem a counter-intuitive thing for a Conservative MP to be doing.
If we believe some, the existence of these so-called ‘soup kitchens’ is evidence of the disastrous policies of the Government.
Yes, numbers of people attending are increasing – but in part this is because we ended the last Government’s ban on job centres making referrals.
And no, they are not soup kitchens at all, but places where families can access non-perishable goods.
No-one disagrees that we live in tough times. But the underlying food poverty in Blackpool and Cleveleys did not simply just appear in May 2010 when the current Government was elected.
The ‘hidden hungry’ have been with us for a long time. They are not to be found only in the areas we tend to think of as deprived – and we know Blackpool has some of the most deprived wards in the country – but in every ward in my constituency.
Because food poverty isn’t just about being homeless or having benefits suddenly reduced.
People can be on what many would consider a good income, but could be labouring under the burden of debt, so with little available cash-in-hand.
Sudden financial shocks to a household used to sticking to a budget can tip families over the edge.
I see many examples in my own surgeries, if only because people have encountered problems accessing benefits they are legitimately entitled to, but system errors have left them without for a few days.
And that’s before we look at issues such as domestic violence, family breakdown or sudden illness.
Many seek to ascribe some sort of blame to people in need, or deny that poverty exists in their area. But this is entirely the wrong response.
We should never walk by on the other side. Identifying the un-met need in my constituency, I wanted to bring together many of the local churches and smaller foodbank operations in Blackpool to identify how we can meet a need which is sadly growing.
I won’t be running it, but I hope I can give it some of my time.
The need for foodbanks will never disappear in my view, but the right response is to do as Trussell Trust foodbanks do across the country, and use the foodbank as a signpost to the right help.
They restrict the number of food parcels to avoid any dependency – the focus is on solutions.
We are in a period where from the state down to the individual level we are moving from when money was freely available – but which was really non-existent credit – to one where we all have to readjust. Along the way, that will be harder for some than others, and a foodbank is just part of the solution to the social problems we face.
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