Why do we tolerate this?
I think we have gone beyond the early attempts to ignore, or deny, rising food bank use. Sadly Food Banks are now a significant feature of the way we tackle food insecurity. Brave would be the politician who tried to argue they did not exist. For an overview of their prevalence I refer you to the Trussell Trust. They commissioned an 18 month survey by Oxford University.
You can find this report here : June 2017 report.
Lone parents, disabled, insecure workers & those subject to benefit sanctions figure prominently in those accessing foodbanks.
Facts on expansion of foodbanks are that in 2009 the Trussell trust had 30 foodbanks this increased to 420 by 2017. This is only one provider and there are many more new entrants to the Food Bank sector. For Trussell Trust alone they provided 1.8 million instances of food supplies in 2016/17 financial year. The evidence is incontrovertible: Food Banks are now a central plank of how we address food insecurity.
Also important to know :users are only allowed to access this support through “referral agents” who act as gatekeepers. These agents have access to vouchers and have to follow criteria before they refer anyone. They are typically drawn from health or social service providers or schools. Bear this in mind when we come to look at reactions to the existence of food banks from our political elite.
The issue that I am interested in exploring is how, in the sixth richest country in the world, is this understood & defended by the political classes. To do this I have done a brief media survey and checked out debates on Hansard on line. This is a searchable facility and a fantastic resource for any similiar political geeks out there.
You can find this link here: Hansard
The Conservative government offer most fertile soil for this analysis & much of their approach is easily satirised as it has been by the Tory Jesus at the head of this piece.
More than one Tory MP have adduced a supply and demand theory of foodbank useage. This is a misunderstanding of the standard protocol of using “referral agents” and is exemplified by Lord Freud. His famous contribution to the debate was this reply:
Norman Tebbit also expressed a similar view though he did row back from this as I found after some further research. For the purpose of this blog I include it here. It is illustrative of a particular mindset:
Regrettably I can’t locate an anthropologist link that talked about how asymmetrical giving is commonly rejected by societal norms and ,contrary to the scrounger narrative, there are massive cultural barriers to accepting charity. They don’t teach this at Eton.
I move on to one of the more desperate explanations for food banks. One of the many contributions that signalled the death knell of satire
Now we move into the next desperate attempt to spin PR gold out of food insecurity. It is a good thing. Don’t look at the hunger. Look at the human goodness that has been awakened by the need of our fellow citizens. It’s not poverty you should focus on. Look at the humanity of those stepping into the breach :
It is not uplifting. It is a consequence of a toxic narrative perpetrated by a distanciated elite who have zero experience of 99% of the people they govern. We are taught to respect the kind of learning that produces these out of touch political overlords. Actually I reject the cultural deficit model of working class (& now middle class ) experience. I am, however, increasingly of the view that a cultural deficit model of Etonians may be in order.
Do I forgive them. Indeed they know not what they do. Is ignorance an excuse in the eyes of the law? Can it be for an excuse our political elite?