Church vicars are increasingly being asked for help by hungry parishioners, the Bishop of Durham has claimed.
The Right Reverend Paul Butler spoke out as ministers sought to brush off new figures revealing more than 900,000 people turned to foodbanks for emergency relief in the past 12 months – a near three-fold increase on the previous year.
Bishop Butler, a former social worker, said: “Clergy have told me of increased requests directly from parishioners struggling to make ends meet.”
And, having joined dozens of bishops and hundreds of faith leaders in signing an open letter demanding the Government take urgent action, he urged: “This is a reality and not a problem that will easily be solved – but solve it, we must.”
The Trussell Trust, which runs 400 foodbanks nationwide, reported a 463 per cent year-on-year rise in demand across the North-East.
Bishop Butler said that many families were facing the “terrible reality” of empty cupboards was deeply challenging and raised acute moral, social and political questions.
Speaking of a recent visit to a Hartlepool foodbank, he said the number of children in need was shocking.
One foodbank user from Brandon said she had asked for help having been forced to leave a stable life and move to care for her father and his partner.
“We have now been housed by Durham County Council, found help and guidance through places like foodbank. Without this help until benefits are resolved and wages for new jobs are paid, we would not be able to survive,” she added.
The faith leaders’ letter, published today, calls food poverty a “national crisis” and comes just two months after 27 bishops said Prime Minister David Cameron had a moral duty to act on the growing number going hungry.
Source – Northern Echo 18 April 2014
27 church leaders, including a number of Anglican bishops, have slammed coalition benefit cuts and “punitive” sanctions in an unprecedented attack on the government’s welfare policies.
In a letter to the Daily Mirror, the church leaders warn that “one in five mothers report regularly skipping meals to better feed their children” and others are having to face the unenviable decision between eating and heating as “food prices have gone up 30% in just five years”.
The church leaders argue that half a million people are having to turn to food banks to feed themselves as their families, and that it was time for society to “face up to the fact that over half of people using food banks have been put in that situation by cut backs and failures in the benefit system”.
According to the signatories of the letter “5,500 people were admitted to hospital in the UK for malnutrition last year”.
They say that there is a “moral imperative” for society and the coalition government to act on food poverty and take immediate action to “make sure that work pays, and to ensure that the welfare system provides a robust last line of defence against hunger”.
The letter sent to the Daily Mirror reads as follows:
“Britain is the world’s seventh largest economy and yet people are going hungry.
“Half a million people have visited food banks in the UK since last Easter and 5,500 people were admitted to hospital in the UK for malnutrition last year.
“One in five mothers report regularly skipping meals to better feed their children, and even more families are just one unexpected bill away from waking up with empty cupboards.
“We often hear talk of hard choices. Surely few can be harder than that faced by the tens of thousands of older people who must “heat or eat” each winter, harder than those faced by families whose wages have stayed flat while food prices have gone up 30% in just five years.
“Yet beyond even this we must, as a society, face up to the fact that over half of people using food banks have been put in that situation by cut backs to and failures in the benefit system, whether it be payment delays or punitive sanctions.
“On March 5th Lent will begin. The Christian tradition has long been at this time to fast, and by doing so draw closer to our neighbour and closer to God.
“On March 5th we will begin a time of fasting while half a million regularly go hungry in Britain. We urge those of all faith and none, people of good conscience, to join with us.
“There is an acute moral imperative to act. Hundreds of thousands of people are doing so already, as they set up and support food banks across the UK. But this is a national crisis, and one we must rise to.
“We call on government to do its part: acting to investigate food markets that are failing, to make sure that work pays, and to ensure that the welfare system provides a robust last line of defence against hunger.”
Source – Welfare News Service, 19 Feb 2014