Sunday, 7 December 2014

Food banks yet again

I've got my (rather sceptical) views on food banks, so it's disappointing to see the church demanding that the state goes a step further and starts providing food for those "starving" in the UK. The Trussell Trust can shout as much as it likes about hundreds of thousands of people using food banks but the reality is that no independent statistics exist on how many, who these people are, and why they are using one. If you want to fix a problem, which is what the church appears to want, you need to work out just how bad it is so you can apply the right solution. What we don't know is:

  • How many food parcels are going to the same people.
  • Why they are using a food bank - benefit delays and sanctions have been cited in Trussell Trust surveys as the most common reasons.
  • Could the reliance on the food bank have been avoided - perhaps people have got their spending priorities wrong?
  • Where are the users from?
That last one is interesting - from the article:
‘In one wealthy town in Berkshire, a food bank director discovered a woman in the advanced stages of pregnancy and her partner living in a child’s toy tent in winter.’
Given the safety net of the welfare state and the duty of local authorities to house you immediately if you are pregnant and homeless, the story is highly improbable. But if we accept it to be true then the most likely explanation is that the people in question were immigrants and not entitled to benefits. That's why it's important to know the full story before lobbying the government for money action.