Secretary of state at the department for work and pensions (DWP) Thérèse Coffey has given a sickening response to an important question about foodbanks and inequality.
I just asked the Secretary of State for Work & Pensions about the gross injustice of nurses relying on food banks while the rich get richer.
Her response? She called food banks a "perfect way" to meet the challenges of those in poverty.
The Tories are totally out of touch.
— Zarah Sultana MP (@zarahsultana) January 27, 2020
Coffey has actually bragged about visiting foodbanks. She also completely failed to answer Sultana’s question:
I visited a similar food bank in my own constituency that has been working together with food redistribution schemes. Marrying the two is a perfect way to try to address the challenges that people face at difficult times in their lives.
She went further, calling people forced to use foodbanks “customers” as though they simply pop out to do a nice bit of consumerism.
People’s response on social media said it all:
“Fourth emergency service”
Sultana’s question was spot on. On 26 January, for example, BristolLive reported that one foodbank volunteer stated that “four [or] five nurses visited the foodbank in one week”. The volunteer asked:
How can it be that those who work tirelessly to take care of others need to use foodbanks in order to eat?
Yet Coffey’s response also failed to acknowledge that volunteer-run foodbanks rely on donations. All this to support people living in poverty and struggling to eat as a result of ten years of Tory-led austerity, welfare cuts, and now Universal Credit. As for acknowledging the rise of “fat-cat” salaries and widening inequality, forget it.
In April 2019, the Trussell Trust revealed that foodbank use in the UK had hit a record high. “Between 1 April 2018 and 31 March 2019” it gave out “1.6 million” food parcels, a rise of 19% from the previous year, and over “half a million of these went to children”.
Coffey’s response showed just how far Conservative cuts have normalised foodbank use in the UK. Sabine Goodwin, coordinator of the Independent Food Aid Network, said:
in just 10 years emergency charitable food aid has been effectively normalised as a fourth emergency service in the UK.
The DWP is not fit for purpose. And Coffey’s latest response highlights just how dangerous it truly is.
Featured image via Wikimedia – Chris McAndrew / Fréa Lockley
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