Labour's Metro mayor candidate and MP for Walton, Steve Rotheram, obtained a debate on poverty in the Liverpool City region to which I was pleased to contribute. I focused on food poverty because what can be more stark for any family that having no food in the house and no money to buy it? Increasingly, in my advice surgeries I am seeing heartbreaking cases of just that.
In the last 10 years, the number of people having to go to food banks has rocketed, (up from 2953 in 2005 to 1.11 million last year) initially because of the global financial crisis but then, because the LibDem Tory coalition decided that never ending cuts to social security support and public services was the answer. Now, even on Trussell Trust figures 43% of visits are primarily because of Government action. This includes DWP stopping and sanctioning benefits, huge delay in processing claims and unjustified action, like the Concentrix debacle courtesy of HMRC. Low pay, zero hours contracts and underemployment can also lead to food crisis. The Trussell Trust food bank in Bridge Chapel has seen a 10% increase on record high numbers, so things are worsening.
In Liverpool, estimates of 60,000 visits to food banks this year probably only capture half of the crisis according to "Share Your Lunch" the Speke based campaign run by Can Cook in partnership with the Liverpool Echo and others, which has raised money for over 28,000 freshly cooked healthy meals.
Unfortunately, the Minister was unwilling to agree to collect Govt statistics on food bank use, just repeating that the reasons for people going there were complex. He kept saying that things were improving, when they are getting worse. He sounded totally out of touch with what is really happening.