MP says increasing reliance on foodbanks is becoming a ‘growing crisis in our communities’

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THE ever-increasing reliance on foodbanks is becoming a “growing crisis in our communities”, a local politician has warned the Government.

Sedgefield MP Phil Wilson dispelled the Government’s notion that the increase in foodbanks is nothing to do with the benefits squeeze.

He raised the issue in the House of Commons during an Adjournment Debate.

He said: “Whoever you talk to in the foodbank movement, it’s delays to benefits which is the main reason why people are referred to their centres.

“Surely it isn’t for foodbanks to be the stop gap because the system isn’t working. Can the minister say what his department is doing to resolve the issue?”

The Labour MP said the number of foodbanks in County Durham has rocketed from one in 2011 to 12 in 2013.

It comes after Conservative minister Lord Freud sparked anger by suggesting more people were taking food handouts simply because more existed.

But Mr Wilson, who said foodbanks in his constituency include ones at St Alban’s Church in Trimdon Grange, one at Trimdon Village Hall and one in Deaf Hill, referred to an email he received from Peter MacLellan who runs the Durham Christian Partnership foodbank network, as well as figures from the Trussell Trust.

He said changes to crisis loans, low incomes and other welfare changes have a major impact on the reasons why people are referred to foodbanks.

Figures from the partnership reveal that by the end of March this year, out of 6,620 people, 18 per cent used the facility because of benefit changes and 34 per cent due to benefit delays. For April and May together, of 1,800 fed, 22 per cent were because of benefit changes and 40 per cent due to benefit delays.

The Peterlee-based East Durham Trust runs the Food Emergency East Durham (FEED) foodbank project.

Trust chief executive Malcolm Fallow said Lord Freud’s comments show a “total disconnect between the people making the policies and the vulnerable people in our society who are suffering at the sharp end”.

Peterlee-born Department for Work and Pensions minister Mark Hoban told the Commons figures show that since April 2010 the DWP has speeded up benefit claim processing by almost five per cent and it’s “therefore hard to square the argument” put by the Trussell Trust and Mr Wilson.