Coalition ‘in denial’ about food bank use, according to new report

The coalition needs to "own up to the role it's playing" in the growth of food banks, a new report says.

The coalition needs to “own up to the role it’s playing” in the growth of food banks, a new report says

The coalition has been accused of being “in denial” about the causes of a massive rise in food bank use, according to a new report by Scottish MSPs.

Contrary to the arguments of government ministers, the report says that welfare reforms were a “significant cause” of the rise in demand for food banks.

In April, the government claimed that there was “no robust evidence linking food bank usage to welfare reform”.

In doing so it cited OECD data, which it claimed showed that food poverty in the UK was actually going down rather than increasing.

But the Scottish government Welfare Committee, which for its new report has taken evidence from the Trussell Trust, Oxfam Scotland and the British Red Cross has now hit back, and has called on the government to “recognise that people are struggling to meet their basic need for food due to its direct action”.

“Our evidence showed some low paid workers need to access food banks,” said convener of the committee Labour MSP Michael McMahon.

“This makes it even more insulting for them to insist that people using food banks are anything other than in desperate need of help,” he added.

And deputy convener and SNP MSP Jamie Hepburn said the government needed to “own up to the role it is playing in causing the increase in demand and stop pretending this is simply all about people looking for something for nothing”.

As Left Foot Forward recently reported, the government has repeatedly tried to wriggle out of its reponsibility for the growth of food banks by citing out of date figures.

The OECD data cited by the government study is from 2012, and the Trussell Trust figures showing the largest growth in food bank usage is for the period 2013 to 2014.

This matters because most of the coalition’s welfare reforms had not actually taken effect in 2012 – they certainly wouldn’t be showing up in statistics for that year:

The Bedroom Tax – introduced in April 2013

Universal Credit – introduced in April 2014 (ongoing)

The Benefit Cap – introduced in April 2013

Changes to child tax credits – introduced in April 2012

Changes to Working Tax Credits – introduced in April 2012

As the independent Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) has recognised, many of the government’s welfare reforms have only started hurting the poor in the past year or so – and the pain will continue in the years to come.

Hence why there has recently been a huge spike in the number of people using food banks, and why the government can’t wriggle out of its responsibility for this by citing old figures.

Food banks April 2014j

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