Cardiff opens fifth food bank as DWP director blames rise on poor people 'maximising economic choices'
Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Central Government and also in Universal Credit
A work services director at the Department for Works and Pensions has claimed that the explosion in food banks is a consequence of poor people "maximising their economic choices".
Faced with accusations that the government's welfare reforms had led to the rise, Neil Couling defended the changes, adding that many people who had lost benefits welcomed "the jolt" it had given them.
Meanwhile, Cardiff City Council has announced that the city is to see its fifth food bank open, with the latest figures revealing that over 7,500 people received emergency parcels from the Lord Mayor's charity, Cardiff Foodbank, in 2013.
With the number expected to rise to over 9,000 this year, the charity has opened its fifth food distribution centre, at St Saviour’s Church in Splott.
Speaking before the Welfare Reform Committee, Mr Couling answered charges that the government's benefit sanctions are driving the increase in food banks across the country.
He said: "My view, very clearly, is that this is a supply-led growth going on, and it will continue to grow over the years ahead, whatever the path of welfare policies are, because we live in a society where there are poor people and rich people, and people will maximise their economic choices. That's just how economies work.
"People will tell you things in order to maximise their economic choices, in the same way people will tell you that 'I am looking for work', because they know the consequences, if they say 'I am not looking for work', then they get sanctioned.
"Similarly people will present to food banks - this may not be wilful deceit going on, this may be their belief about the situation. The food banks will then record that and that will be reported back as fact.
"That doesn't establish a causal link and the supply argument is much stronger."
Cardiff's new centre will be the first Trussell Trust food bank in Wales to offer evening opening hours, specifically aimed at those in full-time employment or education.
Lord Mayor cllr Derrick Morgan, said: “I have been delighted to support the work of my nominated charity Cardiff Foodbank. It has given me the opportunity to share my determination to work with organisations like Cardiff Foodbank, which help support individuals and families who are suffering short term periods of crisis.
“In a climate of worsening poverty and rising homelessness, food banks and their network of support services are becoming ever more necessary. The opening of a fifth centre in Cardiff, whilst a sad indictment of increasing levels of poverty, will enable people in the south-east of the city to access vital support.”
Father Dean Atkins, parish priest of St German with St Saviour, said: “We have been collecting food and donating it to Cardiff Foodbank for some time, and we are delighted to partner with them in a new and exciting way.
"It is clear that there is a need for this kind of support in the local community and I believe the Church has a responsibility to try and meet that need.”