Friday, 7 June 2013

Hounslow food bank, my letter to Chair calling for an end to discrimination of people seeking food aid, and Cause of public anger .

Dear Mr Curran,
                      I have been surprised to hear that your Food Bank has a policy of selective donations of food, that is leading many in real need such as thous sanctioned without the emergency food they need,  and for which client base food banks exist.
I presently run 2 food banks, one covering the whole of Lewisham and the other Greenwich borough with a third to open in Southwark, our experience of dealing with people in real crises is that asking for food is extremly difficult with most clients taking up to 2 weeks from making enquiry to arriving at the food bank.
Clients increasingly are being sanctioned on very poor level of information  and i have very real concerns as to the reports that the Goverment continue to pump out that food Banks have nothing to do with welfare reforms.
Whilst i oppose the very idea that as  the 7th richest economy in the world, we have people needing food aid and that the state allows big business to pay such low wages that many are forced to seek out Food Banks i do what i do for the community i serve, i do not select, or further demonise the poor for any issues they may have due to the financial crises they find themselfs in.
A Selective policy of discrimination against one group of people over another already at the lowest point over food allocation i find shocking and obscene.
I would urge you to review this position, or take the time to visit our Food Bank, meet the people who are using our service and think again.

People seeking out and being brave in asking for help, should not in my view be then vetted or rated as to if or when you will give them food, most people will be truly offended by the Hounslow Food Bank policy, and i find it at odds with the fact Hounslow food bank is run by a Labour Council


Ray Woolford

We Care Food Banks.

Hounslows response;

Thank you for your email, I note your comments, we are reviewing our criteria.  
It is a pity that all the people who have taken the time to email, blog or 
telephone to criticize/condemn, not one of them has volunteered to help in any 
way.  In Hounslow we will continue to do the best for the most vulnerable in our 
community, I am very proud of the record of this Labour administration in 
Hounslow which has protected front line services to the most vulnerable despite 
a 60 million pound cut in our budget by the Tory led coalition government.  I am 
sorry that you think providing food to the needy in Hounslow is shocking and 
obscene, I can assure you that the many residents who receive food aid do not 
share your view.  In a perfect world Hounslow Council would open up its own 
supermarket and give free food to anyone in need.

Councillor Steve Curran, Labour Party Syon Ward
Cabinet Member for Housing, Regeneration & Planning

Hounslow foodbank rejects undeserving poor

A new council-run foodbank in Hounslow has rules stating that they will not give food to people with “chaotic lifestyles” or those who have had their benefits sanctioned.
FoodbanksHounslow Community Foodbox was recently set up in a partnership between Hounslow Council and local tenants and resident groups. It is chaired by Labour Party councillor Steve Curran.
According to its website, the foodbank was set up for people who find themselves in a financial crisis which leaves them with insufficient means to buy food.
However reading through the criteria of who is eligible for a food voucher, the site attaches a disclaimer:
“Those persons who are in constant difficulties due to chaotic lifestyleswill not qualify for a voucher.
“People do not have to be on benefits to qualify for a voucher but they must have recourse to public funds.
“Anyone who has a delay/reduction in benefits or has been refused a crisis loan which causes them to struggle to buy food should contact the Jobcentre.
“People who are under sanctions from the Jobcentre are ineligible for a voucher.”
A large number of benefit sanctions have been handed down already by Jobcentre staff who are believed to be under pressure to meet unofficial targets to reduce claims. Claimants can be sanctioned for things like missing meetings, turning down jobs and failing to attend workfare placements.
It appears that those who have had their benefits stopped for whatever reason are deemed undeserving by Hounslow Food Box. As are those with “chaotic lifestyles”, whatever that means – children out of wedlock perhaps, or spending too much on fags and booze?
If, even at the doors of some foodbanks, a distinction is now being drawn between “shirkers” and “strivers”, then we on the progressive left really do have a problem.
I contacted Hounslow Community Foodbox but have so far not received a reply.
Foodbanks have grown exponentially under the coalition (note: the Hounslow foodbank in question was not a Trussell Trust foodbank)
Food banks graph 2013

We Care Food Bank in South London does not issue vouchers and Feeds any local resident in need.

We Care Bank with Co Op bank' Sort code 08 92 99. Account Number 65659328 every penny raised goes to help buy Food anmd run our advice and support service.
You can Follow Ray on twitter@Raywoolford.
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