Sam Wollaston’s article (Food bank supremo Emma Revie: ‘This is the best job in the world – and it shouldn’t have to exist’, 31 May) was a timely and depressing reminder of the increasing dependence on food banks across UK society.
At our local hustings in advance of the recent Scottish parliamentary election, my wife introduced herself to the panel as a longstanding volunteer at our local food bank, and posed a simple question to all the parties represented, namely: “What steps will your party take to make me redundant?”
In their responses, five of the panellists made mention of various reforms to universal credit, revision of personal independence payment procedures, and introduction of a realistic living wage. The sixth panellist, representing the current UK governing party, brusquely dismissed the question by replying (and I paraphrase): “Regrettably, food banks are necessary, and for the foreseeable future, will remain an essential part of the fabric of 21st-century UK society.” With such entrenched negative attitudes on the part of the party in UK power potentially for years to come, I fear that Emma Revie and her colleagues at the Trussell Trust will be working for a long time.
Linlithgow, West Lothian
In 2006-7, under Labour, I cofounded Oxford’s Community Emergency Foodbank (CEF). Since CEF’s foundation, we have supplied emergency food to over 40,000 of Oxford’s poorest people.
The Trussell Trust’s CEO, Emma Revie, claims in your article that the need for food banks arises from “a failure of our social security system … it’s in the gift of government to uplift universal credit and other changes to benefits”. She says that food banks “shouldn’t have to exist”. The clear implication being that if the government raised the level of benefits, the need for food banks would be eliminated.
I doubt that this is true. Food banks stretch right across the world from Tasmania to Los Angeles, and in all EU countries: none, of any political stripe, have created a benefit system that caters for the varied reasons people need food banks. These include: desertion, alcoholism, mental illness, drugs, prison, divorce, family breakdown, loss of work, gaps in benefits, gambling and human folly. Sadly, food banks are here to stay.