Food banks have trebled in number since 2009 with over 300 outlets and at least 200,000 people expected to turn to them this year. Yesterday it was confirmed that the government is to investigate the massive rise in food bank dependency in the UK.
Unite is bringing a food bank to the heart of government to draw attention to the impending welfare changes and how these will force ever greater numbers to rely on food parcels.
The union is warning that April’s benefit changes will not harm those out of work alone, but will also hurt the working poor dramatically – whilst some 60% of those set to be hit by the three-year below-inflation rise in benefits will be working households. The Institute for Fiscal Studies predicts that as many as seven million working households will be hit by the uprating cap, by an average of £165 per year.
Unite’s own polling has revealed that among those in work and relying on benefits, food will be among the chief items to be cut back when the April changes impact.
The union is calling on all MPs and members of the House of Lords to donate to the food bank, as well as back changes to the Welfare Uprating Bill being proposed by the union and charities intended to stop the legislation causing widespread hardship.
MPs will be joined at the photocall by Unite community members who are themselves impacted by the changes and are also working to help those worried about the probable impoverishment they face from April.
The food bank photocall will follow a briefing in the Lords on the welfare changes where experts from Shelter, the Child Poverty Action Group and the Trussell Trust will set out their concerns with the bill.
Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: “The prime minister sneaked into a food bank in his constituency and sneaked out again – is it because he is ashamed of the threefold growth in these operations under his government? He should be.
“Thousands of people are turning to food banks because they cannot make ends meet. But rather than help those who need it most, this government denounces them as shirkers and turns the austerity screw still further.
“These welfare changes are a regressive, mean-minded attack on the most vulnerable in our society – children, the disabled, lone parents. They are the product of a nasty ideology from a failed government and will set our country back to sadder times. We are urging peers to take the opportunity they have now to stop this, as the House of Lords is the last hope for millions fearing the weeks to come.”