MORE than half a million people are relying on handouts from foodbanks like the one in Hartlepool, say charities.
Church Action Poverty and Oxfam are calling on the MPs to investigate the impact major changes to the welfare system are having on people.
They say there should be an urgent investigation into the link between delays and changes and the rise of food poverty.
It is after they found up to half of people seeking help was a direct result of having benefit payments delayed, reduced or withdrawn.
Hartlepool Foodbank has handed out more than 1,200 food parcels since it opened in December, and organisers say the benefits shake-up is one of the main reasons people are coming to them for help.
Al Wales, co-ordinator of Hartlepool Foodbank in Church Street, recently said: “People are coming into the foodbank from across the town for all sorts of different reasons, and from all sorts of different backgrounds.
“Currently, the main issues people are experiencing are benefit delay and changes or low income.”
Hartlepool MP Iain Wright, who officially opened Hartlepool Foodbank last week, admitted he had mixed feelings about the charity projects.
He praised the volunteers and the public’s generosity who have given several tonnes of food.
But he added: “What kind of country are we becoming if the Government cannot provide a minimum welfare state that ensures people can eat?”
Energy Secretary Ed Davey told MPs this month that it was “completely wrong to suggest that there is some sort of statistical link between the benefit reforms we’re making and the provision of food banks”.
But Church Action Poverty and Oxfam drew a direct link with the Government’s two-year below-inflation cap on working-age benefit increases in their report Walking the Breadline.
Oxfam chief executive Mark Goldring said: “Cuts to social safety-nets have gone too far, leading to destitution, hardship and hunger on a large scale.
“It is unacceptable that this is happening in the seventh wealthiest nation on the planet.”
A Department for Work and Pensions spokeswoman said: “We welcome the contribution voluntary organisations and foodbanks, including the Trussell Trust, play in supporting local communities, beyond the safety net provided by Government.
“That is why Jobcentre Plus for the first time is now referring people to their services.”