One of the most alarming stats to come out recently was the revelation that the use of food banks has tripled over the last year. Obviously, this is a result of unemployment, low-paid work and continuing benefit cuts to the poor. In particular, the ‘bedroom tax’ has been put forward as a major factor in this increase. You would imagine the Tories would be quite embarrassed and ashamed by these stats, but surely they would say that is unfortunate, but food banks are an example of the ‘big society’ that they champion, and tell us that although people will get left behind in times of austerity they will be okay when growth returns?
Well, quite frankly, their attitude has been the opposite. Last month we had Michael Gove telling us that ‘people often use food banks because they have mismanaged their finances’. Quite why the education secretary felt the need to weigh in on this argument is unclear, but it provoked outrage from charities and Labour politicians. and rightly so. While there are doubtless some people who could manage their finance better using food banks, this is no way for a senior member of the cabinet to be talking about some of the most vulnerable people in society. To tar them all with effectively the same brush used to paint ‘scroungers’ as people who fritter away their benefit on scratch cards and cheap beer is very poor from Gove.
Callous and uncaring
Then yesterday we had Lord Freud, the deviser of the ‘bedroom tax’ making a bizarre claim that supply was stimulating demand, and more people are using food banks as there are more food banks, and they are bound to go there if there is free food on offer. This is ridiculous. To act as if people are willing to suffer the huge social stigma of asking for food handouts and the shame of relying on strangers for food all in order to get some tins of Tesco Value chicken soup is just ridiculous. This attitude from the Tories is callous and uncaring, and represents an utter failure to show empathy with the suffering their policies have caused.