Food banks to offer financial help as well


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The Independent Online

Food banks are surprisingly controversial things, mainly because in recent times they’ve become politicised. Critics say they have rapidly grown in number because of the coalition’s benefit cutbacks. But for the people who use them, that’s irrelevant. They are a godsend that helps them through a difficult patch.

These aren’t folk who regularly turn to handouts, as far as I know, but those that have reached a crisis. And that could be for any number of reasons. Maybe they’ve lost their job, or have had to splash out on a domestic emergency.

Whatever the reason, the food banks can help them get through a rough time. But recognising that people who turn to food banks are likely to be facing a financial crisis, the Trussell Trust charity is launching a scheme next month to give these struggling people instant financial help.

It plans to link with debt charities to give people in need financial advice and money management as well as emergency food when they turn to food banks.

The idea strikes me as a great one. It’s got the backing of Martin Lewis, of the MoneySavingExpert website, who has donated some of his own cash to help fund next month’s pilot scheme. He said: “The hope is that this scheme will provide a financial equivalent of ‘give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime’.”

If it works, the scheme could prove life-changing for those in financial straits. One of the problems in getting help to financially vulnerable people is finding them and getting them to admit they need help.

I suspect anyone who turns to food banks to feed themselves is ready to admit they do need help, and I’d hope they would welcome it.

David McAuley the chief executive of the Trussell Trust, said: “It’s deeply concerning that the basics of dignified life in modern Britain – food, heat and electricity – can fall out of reach for so many.”

I agree and hope that schemes such is this can help change that.

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