Tagged: Mark Bryant

Food poverty under spotlight in South Tyneside

Measures needed to tackle food poverty across Britain are being scrutinised in South Tyneside today.

Members of an all-party Parliamentary inquiry team, including South Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck, visited the town’s Churches Together Key Project, at St Mary’s Centre, last summer as part of a fact-finding exercise.

The team also held a discussion session at St Jude’s Church Hall at Rekendyke, South Shields, and visited the New Hope Food Bank, in the town’s Robinson Street.

They heard poignant personal accounts from young borough people forced to rely on food banks to survive, and they were told that more than 1,680 people in South Tyneside had visited food banks in 2013.

Everything the team learned in the borough has helped inform the recommendations they made to the Government on the extent of hunger across the country and the actions needed to address it.

Today Mrs Lewell-Buck and the Rt Rev Mark Bryant, the Bishop of Jarrow, are among those meeting at South Shields Town Hall to discuss the findings of the hard-hitting report.

The report identifies a clear link between the use of food banks and tougher restrictions on access to benefits.

> Like it wasn’t always obvious ?

It insists that, contrary to Government claims, food banks have spread because of greater need.

Among a raft of recommendations, the report calls for bigger food banks to distribute more free food and advise people on how to claim benefits and make ends meet.

And it recommends a rise in the minimum wage and the provision of free school meals during school holidays for poorer children.

The report says:

“We do not believe food banks should take the place of statutory welfare provision in this country, but our evidence suggests there is a strong desire for longer-term interaction between food banks and vulnerable households, and an eagerness for these relationships to become embedded within local communities so they can help people overcome the deep-seated causes of hunger.”

Mrs Lewell-Buck said:

“We’ve had a great response to our report, and we’ve managed to get the Government to accept that some aspects of the benefits system aren’t working and are causing a lot of hardship.

“I think the Government’s priority needs to be dealing with low-paid and insecure work, as well as the harsh way benefit sanctions are being imposed.

> Yes, we all think so too. So are you actually going to do something about it ? Will your party, if they win the general election ?

“The group’s work doesn’t stop with the report, however. This is an ongoing mission to put an end to food poverty, and that is why I am holding today’s meeting to discuss the next steps for the group and for Shields.”

The Government is now considering the findings of the inquiry team.

A Government spokesman said:

“This report is a serious contribution to an important debate, with many good ideas, and recognising that the reasons behind demands for emergency food assistance are complex and frequently overlapping.

“As a country, we have enough food to go around, and we agree that it is wrong that anyone should go hungry at the same time as surplus food is going to waste.

“There is a moral argument, as well as a sustainability one, to ensure we make the best use of resources.”

SOME OF THE REPORT’S 77 RECOMMENDATIONS:

–  The Government should provide support for 12 pilot projects across the UK to draw together voluntary and public expertise to eliminate hunger.

– All supermarkets should follow the example of Tesco and add 30 per cent to any food given by its shoppers to food banks.

> Bought by shoppers in Tesco.  It might look a bit more magnaminous if they just gave something without those kind of strings ?

– Local authorities should work with food organisations to free up land for food production, retail and storage.

> But don’t we have all those things already ? Surely the problem facing people using foodbanks is that we have plenty of food, but not the money to buy it ?

– Credit unions accounts’ should be made eligible for receipt of Universal Credit to encourage use among low-income households.

– Local authorities should begin collecting information on whether landlords in receipt of housing benefit are providing basic cooking facilities for their tenants.

– The Government should reform the benefits system so it can deliver payments within five working days.

> I’m sure it could right now… if it wanted to.

– The Department of Work and Pensions ought to simplify access to hardship payments.

 > And it could do that right now too… if, of course, it wanted to…
Source –  Shields Gazette,  06 Feb 2015

Christmas and Foodbanks – Bishop of Jarrow Gets Stuck In…

Well, to a degree anyway. Certainly in his 2013 Christmas message, the Right Revd Mark Bryant, Bishop of Jarrow, adressed subjects which seem to have struck local politicians dumb. I suppose its a start…

Extracts – (full message here).

I wonder if 2013 will go down in history as the year that in this country we discovered Food Banks?  Wherever I go across the region, almost every day I hear stories of people for whom life is becoming more difficult than I can even begin to imagine. I hear stories too of amazing generosity as people give time and money to support people…

It seems impossible this year to separate Christmas and Foodbanks. While very many of us will be spending more and eating more than we do at other times of the year, the media coverage and the collections outside our supermarkets will make it difficult to forget that we are a deeply divided country in which something is very deeply wrong.

If there is hope, – and I surely believe there is – for me it lies in the extraordinary generosity of so many. People I talk to who collect outside supermarkets tell me of the amazing generosity of so many.

Mmm.. and dont forget the amazing generosity of the supermarkets themselves, who generously allow people to buy from them to give to the foodbank collectors outside. Nothing in it for them at all…

There have been those this year who have seemed to want us to harden our hearts with their talk of benefit scroungers – ignoring the fact that very many people on benefits are in work and some foodbanks report that sometimes their busiest time of the day is when people are going home from work. The Good News is how many people refuse to let their hearts be hardened and persist in being generous. That gives me hope.

The bad news is that those propagating the benefits = scroungers propaganda are those in parliament with access to and control of the media, with not a few, I suspect, working for the DWP. I wonder if the Bishop has heard of sanctions and the unnecessery hardships they are causing ?

The Christmas story is a story about a God who does not abandon us whatever the mess and that sense that we are not alone is a reason to have hope.

Trouble is, that God doesn’t seem to give a fuck about suffering. If anything, he seems to get off on it…

It’s the god of Iain Duncan Smith, Esther McVey and David Cameron. the god that saves the Queen but cares nothing for the poor.

The god that says you’ll get pie in the sky when you die (maybe)… but until then you suffer.

I’m not sure I’d want to put too much faith in a god like that.