Sunday, 18 August 2013

Foodbank Rules - Are they fair?

I make no apologies, and that is where I and the Trussell Trust tend to part company somewhat, when  I say I have great difficulty as a humanitarian in dealing with their policy on Foodbank visits/parcels recieved.

The Trussell Trust  (TT) are a Christian based organisation. I too am a Christian -a Catholic by birth. The TT have a policy that when people are referred to a Foodbank by a voucher system, they supply 3 days worth of emergency food rations designed around the need - ie a family of 2 adults and 3 children will have different needs to a single person. But then they also state clients can have no more than 3 visits in any 6-12 month period (it varies on location I find). That is what I find uncomfortable.

There are always people who try and abuse systems, but these are in a tiny minority, just like the 0.5% DLA fraud, although IDS would have you believe it runs into millions of people abusing the system! But I find the "language of fear" is increasingly used as the TT try to push,in the media,the "stringent" checks made on vouchers so no one is able to abuse the system, to reassure the Mail readers their benevolent donations are not open to abuse.

This fear of abuse then lends itself to what I see frankly as a blaming policy of "3 visits and you're out" on food parcels. It is widely known that Job Centre sanctions for minor infringements like being 5 minutes late to sign on are being used to sanction people for weeks on end! I am sorry, but it is NOT humanitarian to allow 3x3 visits/parcels when the sanctions can go on for 2/3 months! It is NOT Christian to then turn your back on people in dire circumstances. The TT insist they do not want to encourage a dependency culture, but the Government by sanctioning benefits leave people with very little choice, but to be dependent on a Foodbank and local community help.

When I donate to my Foodbank, I am not then issuing policy on who and who not should benefit from it and for how long. There are working people who may need a parcel to get by every week for the next 3 years, whose income will not grow due to stagnant wages and zero hours contracts. They will need the Foodbanks continuous help not a measly 3 times!

How sapping of a poor persons energies and how fearful are they when they realise they have already recieved 3 parcels in 6 months and so are unable  to apply again? Sorry but I want them to be helped again and again until they are able to feed their families when benefit is reinstated or when their wages increase. I cannot turn my back after 3 visits. The Government via Cameron and IDS rejoice in this "Big Society" approach of communities feeding people. I know the coalition now rely on us and have turned their backs on the poor. But if we have to step into the huge void, we cannot then act like them by limiting need!

How is need measured? Where do people turn to after the 3 visits have been reached?  Crime and shoplifting in desperation? I make no apologies: I would rather they turn to their community foodbank and ask for further help. I don't want families and children to starve because I wasn't there the 4th time they needed me.