Stephen this week highlighted the ‘Christmas crisis’ facing many families, after shocking new figures from food banks in Cardiff and Penarth revealed that the number of people receiving help in the run-up to the festive season has soared.
Figures released by Cardiff Food Bank show that, in October and November this year, 1419 people were fed by the service – 516 of them children. This is up 94% since 2011, when the total number fed during October and November was 732.
Meanwhile figures released by Penarth-based Tabernacle Food Bank – which has only been recording data for the last two years – show that in October and November this year, 295 people were fed by the service, 63 of them children. This is up by a staggering 656% since 2012, when the total number fed during the same period was 39.
Stephen took part in an Opposition Day debate on food banks on Wednesday (December 18), and has also spoken out about the ‘growing epidemic of hidden hunger’.
Speaking ahead of the debate, he said: “Under the Tory/Lib-Dem government we’re facing a cost of living crisis, and the growing epidemic of hidden hunger in Cardiff and across the UK should be a wake-up call to Cameron and Clegg.
“Shocking figures from these local food banks reveal that families are facing a Christmas crisis, with increasing numbers unable to put food on their table and meet the most basic of needs in the run-up to the festive period.”
Labour has long argued that the dramatic escalation in food bank use is a direct result of government policy, and Cardiff and UK-wide figures released by the Trussell Trust back this up in no uncertain terms.
According to the figures for Cardiff, more than half of all referrals made between April and December this year were due to changes or delays in social security payments. Other reasons were unemployment, debt, low incomes, homelessness, and domestic violence.
UK-wide figures show that between April and September this year, 65,177 people were referred to Trussell Trust food banks as a direct result of changes in their benefit, compared with 14,897 in the same period last year. Meanwhile this year, 117,442 people were referred due to a delay in social security payments, compared with 35,597 last year.
Trussell Trust Chairman Chris Mould said: “We were delighted when Labour announced an Opposition Day debate on foodbanks and UK hunger. It was an important next step in paying this urgent issue the attention it deserves.
“Public support for the petition asking for UK hunger to be debated in Parliament has been phenomenal. It proves that ordinary people are deeply concerned about the distressing poverty they’re seeing in their communities and we hope that the debate helped to engage politicians across all parties in understanding the reality of food poverty in Britain today so that they can work together to find solutions.”
A spokesman for the Tabernacle Church-based food bank in Penarth said: “People are finding they must choose between paying bills and eating. Our food bank is dependent on the generosity of local people who regularly donate food, even though many are themselves feeling the pinch.”
Stephen Doughty MP has been a long-time supporter of food banks, the service they provide, the volunteers who run them and constituents who donate to them.