Comments: All Party Parliamentary Group on food poverty

It is not just on Food Banks but also on Drop in Centres that many are now relying on for their basic food needs, such as our Parish "Open Door" Drop In. This feeds up to 20 people 3 times a week in our small Market Town. Some of these have been very vulnerable people who have become "victims" of benefits delays in payments and of sanctions imposed.

Posted by Paul Richardson at Tuesday, 9 December 2014 at 12:52pm GMT

This must be one of the most important and pressing threads on Thinking Anglicans for a long time.

It is encouraging that the Archbishop of Canterbury is speaking out on this vital matter.

Posted by Laurie at Tuesday, 9 December 2014 at 1:03pm GMT

Well said, Laurie. Here in Canada, too, this is a pressing need.

Posted by Tim Chesterton at Tuesday, 9 December 2014 at 5:29pm GMT

Hearing what Paul says about the Drop In centres also puts us further in the picture.

I think it would good too hear, here from various churches, parishes, groups and so on, to help build up our understanding of it, for action and prayer.

Also the policy implications of these reports re e.g. 'sanctioning' and the terrible effects of payment 'processing' and payments.

The government seem to have forgotten real people involved and terrible hardship for children.

Posted by Laurie at Tuesday, 9 December 2014 at 5:43pm GMT

I didn't know this was going on in Canada too, Tim.

Very worrying. How has it come about in your country I wonder?
I know the government is very Conservatively oriented.

Posted by Laurie at Tuesday, 9 December 2014 at 7:45pm GMT

Regrettably opinion polls suggest that many laypersons believe that the benefit system should be even harsher. Figuring out how to change such perceptions is a challenge.

Posted by Savi Hensman at Tuesday, 9 December 2014 at 9:54pm GMT

It's patchy in Canada, Laurie, as we are a federation of provinces, and stuff like social assistance tends to be a provincial responsibility, so policies vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. I live in Alberta, which is the most conservative province in the country, and our provincial coffers depend heavily on oil revenue. When the price goes down (as it currently is doing) stuff gets cut, as we are rather allergic to progressive tax systems here.

We have the lowest minimum wage in the country, I believe. In my city of Edmonton you do well if you work in the oil industry or other prosperous sectors of the economy, but the gap between rich and poor is getting wider, and lots of people are being left behind.

Posted by Tim Chesterton at Tuesday, 9 December 2014 at 11:14pm GMT

An excellent and timely report but where is the Conservative Cabinet Minister who will label it as "Marxist", as in the good old days of "Faith in the City", when Robert Runcie was on St. Augustine's throne and the Church of England formed the most effective opposition to Margaret Thatcher's government? Oh, how we miss the Chingford Skinhead.

Posted by Father David at Wednesday, 10 December 2014 at 8:23am GMT

Jesus said: "The Poor you will always have with you". I guess such a situation is always an opportunity for us ALL to give that little bit extra. Institutions alone cannot bear the burden!

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Wednesday, 10 December 2014 at 8:57am GMT

The food situation is dreadful here in the US as well. The dysfunction in Washington is such that the Republicans sneak cuts in food assistance into every bill (exaggerations, but still). Combine that with the fact that poor neighborhoods are often "food deserts" without grocery stores with healthy food. AND note that the available healthy food is more expensive than unhealthy food. The result is hunger and poor health. And a bizarre phenomenon of poor and undernourished people who are also overweight. A large percentage of kids are impacted, around 25 percent, depending on the state.

The large food bank in our city, Metro CareRing (MCR), gets its food from the supermarkets and Costco, but also from donations. Our church gathers canned goods and diapers on the 4th Sunday. MCR goes further by empowering people by teaching courses on nutrition and cooking, and also on growing their own food (more common in the UK than the US).

Recently, two college professors, one from the US and one from the UK, compared their paycheck stubs. They get paid almost exactly the same, so comparing the taxes/benefits was fascinating. Despite all the political posturing on low taxes in the US, the taxes withheld were almost exactly the same. Of course the US is paying a whole military industrial complex to police the entire world. We paid two psychologists $81 million to design a torture program. What are you getting for your taxes in the UK? I'm hearing about cuts to everything, benefits, the arts, the NHS. Where is your money going?

Posted by Cynthia at Wednesday, 10 December 2014 at 4:51pm GMT

I'm currently reading "Theonomics: Reconnecting Economics with Virtue and Integrity", a fascinating book edited by Andrew Lightbown and Peter Sills. It argues strongly for a market economy rooted in Christian ethics and makes fascinating reading.

Amazon allow a "look inside". Just don't buy it from them until they treat their staff properly and pay their taxes!

Posted by Erika Baker at Thursday, 11 December 2014 at 9:16am GMT

It's a good question Cynthia, and the answer, I'm afraid, is on benefits and on paying the interest on our unimaginably large national debt. But, lest you think I am incurably right-wing, the benefits to which this report refers are only a small proportion of the total benefits bill. The largest part of the benefits bill goes to old people (like me). We get state pensions, free travel passes, winter fuel payments, free prescriptions and numerous other benefits, none of which are means-tested. It is an absurd use of the Government's limited resources, so why does it happen? Because pensioners vote in large numbers, whilst poor people, by and large, do not.
But of even greater significance is paying the interest on our national debt, which continues to increase (by over £600Bn over the course of this Parliament), despite all the cuts. This is truly the 'elephant in the room' in this whole debate and, if not addressed, will impoverish us all and, as always, the poor will feel it the most. I am sorry to see that this is hardly mentioned in the report, and not at all in the recommendations.
Left-wingers would have us believe that this Government is engaging in class warfare, deliberately 'punishing the poor for being poor'. A retired bishop who ought to know better said exactly that in the Church Times last year. In reality, the Government has taken as its first priority trying to do something about the national debt. In my view, it deserves some credit for that, even if it has arguably cut the wrong things, and the problems this report addresses are a regrettable, even deplorable, side-effect of that action.

Posted by Malcolm Dixon at Thursday, 11 December 2014 at 11:54am GMT

If the government wished to reduce the national debt, cutting individual and corporation tax by billions of pounds (largely benefiting high earners) and pursuing policies that leave many low-earners reliant on benefits would not be prudent.

Posted by Savi Hensman at Thursday, 11 December 2014 at 11:12pm GMT

You're right, Savi. It wouldn't be prudent, if that had happened, but it didn't, at least not entirely. True, corporation tax was reduced, but that is part of the global 'race to the bottom' in corporate taxation, which needs reversing, but that can only be done by global agreement or else we risk losing even more jobs and tax revenue. But by far the largest change in individual taxation has been for low earners, where the personal allowance has doubled over the course of this parliament, taking millions of low earners out of income taxation altogether. How does that leave them more reliant on benefits?
Food banks have become a political football - those on the left don't like them because they think it's something the state should be doing, and those on the right don't like them because they think they encourage dependency. Just about the only thing all can agree on is that food banks should not be necessary in a civilised society.
I'm a strong supporter of food banks, but as a short-term palliative, not a solution to poverty. Which is why I would have preferred this report to have plotted a route which would lead to food banks becoming redundant, rather than appearing to institutionalise them by making them part of a larger government-funded joint entity.

Posted by Malcolm Dixon at Friday, 12 December 2014 at 11:29am GMT
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