Tories have avoided the truth over austerity and food banks

The government has been reluctant to admit that welfare reforms are linked to increased use of food banks

While a rise in use of food banks has coincided with the imposition of austerity, the Conservative government has been reluctant to admit any causal link between the two.

To do so would be to acknowledge that their policies, which have resulted in public services and benefits being cut, have left an increasing number of people dependent on handouts from charities just to feed themselves and their families.

It has been a difficult message to sell – particularly when the Department for Work and Pensions has been advising jobcentres on how to send people to food banks – but one that the government has maintained steadfastly.

When asked during last year’s election campaign about the suggestion that more and more nurses, who were then in the midst of a seven-year 1% pay cap, were resorting to food banks, Theresa May’s reply was: “There are many complex reasons why people go to food banks.”

The rightwing Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg also attracted criticism after he described the voluntary support given to food banks “rather uplifting” and showed “what a compassionate country we are”.

The stock response from the senior Conservatives, when taken to task over their increased use, has to been to answer opaquely, instead highlighting positive economic indicators, such as increased employment, under their government. They have generally left it to the Department for Work and Pensions to reject outright the notion that welfare reforms are linked to increased use of food banks.

To those who take offence at such comments, the reasons people turn to food banks are quite plain (and there have been studies that support them). The Trussell Trust, the UK’s biggest food bank network, has said that they help people with “nowhere else to turn”.

Earlier this year, it said that food banks in areas where the full universal credit service had been in place for 12 months or more were four times as busy. The DWP responded by criticising the “small, self-selecting sample”.


Haroon Siddique

The GuardianTramp

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