Lyn Brown

Member of Parliament for West Ham

Edwina Currie and Food Banks - Feb 2014

Surfing the web, waiting for inspiration to strike, I came across the views of Edwina Currie.  Remember her, former Conservative MP, who has since become a minor TV celeb?

How could she possibly inspire this column, I hear readers demand?  It was her opinion of Food Banks and poverty which left me so incredulous that I thought that I should share it with readers.

She sees no need for Food Banks stating, “For the life of me I can’t see how giving someone a tin of soup when they are suffering from a mental illness or have debt problems contributes to solving their long-term problems.”  I couldn’t believe her crassness.

People should avoid debt (duh!), she suggests, stop feeding their dog and avoid getting tattoos.

Feeding their dog?  This woman has no idea about the heart-breaking decisions to abandon pets made by thousands of UK families who can’t afford to feed them.  Edwina, talk to the RSPCA.  Actually, talk to the people who work in, and volunteer for, Newham’s Food Banks.

In 2009, Newham had just one Food Bank; now there are at least six and at least four places offering free meals to the hungry.  That indicates the scale of the problem.

Over 25,000 households and families in Newham are affected by the benefit cap, the bedroom tax and council tax changes.  Newham families lose up to £90 per week.  Families with children suffer worst.

Earlier this month, I voiced my concerns in Parliament, giving examples of those using our Food Banks:  the penniless man with learning and physical difficulties whose benefit was suspended and could afford neither to heat his home nor eat; and the woman whose husband disappeared, a suspected suicide, leaving her and the children alone.  Her benefits were stopped, and she used the Food Bank until benefits were reinstated.

Food Banks do well supporting vulnerable people who slide into hunger, because of job loss, pay or hours’ cuts, reduced social security payments, or a blunder by the DWP, but it is so wrong, that in the 21st Century people are forced to rely on the good will of neighbours to live.

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