Simon Read: From food banks to financial help


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The Independent Online

Food banks are surprisingly controversial things, mainly because in recent times they've become politicised. Critics say it is the Coalition's benefit cuts that have caused them to grow in number so rapidly. But for the people who use them, that's irrelevant. They are godsends that help them through hard times.

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

Whatever the reason, the food banks can provide them with some respite. However, 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 offer instant financial help.

It plans to link up with debt charities to give financial advice to people in need, as well as emergency provisions 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 trouble. One of the problems in getting help to 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.

Twitter: @simonnread

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