Socialist group sets up food bank in Middlesbrough – but are accused of “hijacking” event for political point-scoring

After the growth of food banks, a clothes bank is now due to be opened on Teesside by an anti-Government organisation.

Teesside Socialist Clothing Bank will open its doors this Saturday, at the John Paul Centre in Middlesbrough after organisers said those on Jobseekers Allowance were sometimes unfairly having their benefits cut.

However that has been countered by the town’s parliamentary candidate for the Conservative Party Simon Clarke who said that in fact benefits are being processed more quickly under the Conservative-led government.

One of the organisers of the clothing bank, Anna Thorne, said statistics showed that 46 per cent of dole claimants in Middlesbrough had been sanctioned for being late or missing an appointment for sometimes valid reasons. That can lead to claimants having their benefits cut for six weeks to three months which was causing hardship.

> If that figure is true – and it could well be – that means almost half of benefit claimants in middlebrough have been sanctioned !

She also pointed to cuts at Middlesbrough Borough Council caused by reductions in Government grants, including the fact the council had stopped helping schoolchildren in poverty buy school uniforms to save £13,000 a year.

Free hot food and entertainment will be provided between 11am and 2pm on what will start as a monthly event.

 MsThorne said:
“There was a council-run event before Christmas where people could get food and advice and I noticed they were giving away a bag of clothes to people and everyone was saying how much demand there was. We’ve had so many people donating that we can’t actually take any more at the minute. We’ve got eight volunteers and it shows people do have a feeling of solidarity.”

A press release by Teesside Solidarity Clothing Group also criticised the Government saying that:

“The project locates the Government’s vicious austerity agenda as resulting in the most vulnerable suffering the most hardship. Set against a landscape of benefit sanctions and a diminishing welfare state the project emphasises that being hard up is not a crime.”

Conservative parliamentary candidate for Middlesbrough, Simon Clarke, said the clothing bank shouldn’t be used for political point-scoring. He said:

“I welcome any initiative that helps vulnerable people and I wish the new Teesside clothing bank every success. However, it is disappointing that some people involved with this project feel the need to hijack its launch to try to score political points using rhetoric that simply doesn’t square with the facts.

 “The best way to solve poverty is to help people into work and the Government is delivering on this. Unemployment in Middlesbrough is down by 30 per cent in the last year…
> That’ll be due to that 46% of sanctions !
… and nationally 1.75 million more people are in work since 2010. For those out of work, benefit processing has improved under this Government: 93 per cent of benefits overall are processed on time, up seven per cent since Labour was in office.”
Source –  Northern Echo,  06 Jan 2015
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