Labour conference: How can Labour end the need for food banks?

“People don’t think either political party is taking hardship seriously enough and didn’t see a plan to tackle it.”


‘Food banks make me furious…nobody should have the choice of what food they have in their cupboard taken away from them’, Labour MP Alison McGovern told a fringe event at the Labour Party conference, looking at how the party can end the need for foodbanks.

The event, organised by the New Statesman, saw experts from foodbanks and poverty charities discuss how to end the need for food banks in the country amid increasing levels of destitution and poverty.

Katie Schmuecker, principal policy adviser at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, told the event that rising levels of poverty and destitution were having a devastating impact on families, individuals and their mental health, with the levels of hardship we are seeing holding our country back.

She added: “People don’t think either political party is taking hardship seriously enough and didn’t see a plan to tackle it.”

Schmuecker said that the social security system needed to ensure we can afford life’s essentials and get us back on our feet, calling for an ‘essentials guarantee to be built into law’.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation says that an Essentials Guarantee would embed in our social security system the widely supported principle that, at a minimum, Universal Credit should protect people from going without essentials. Developed in line with public attitude insights and focus groups, this policy would be enshrined in legislation.

The UK Government would be required to set the level of the Essentials Guarantee at least annually, based on the recommendation of an independent process. The JRF’s analysis indicates that it would need to be at least £120 a week for a single adult and £200 for a couple.

Labour MP McGovern told the conference that she wanted to be the politician who turns up to the closure of a foodbank because she would like the need for them to end.

She also highlighted that the Labour Party wanted to see a genuine living wage as well as excellent public services that help to end the need for foodbanks and lift people out of poverty.

McGovern added: “Our NHS plan is much about our economy and supporting and helping people back into work”.

Stopping short of any specific policy pledges, McGovern also said the next Labour government would also prioritise the importance of ensuring all in need are able to access advice about social security which is increasingly hard to come by.

Basit Mahmood is editor of Left Foot Forward

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