Conservative MP says people using food banks have a 'cashflow problem'

'Today, the mask slipped and we saw the real Tory Party,' says Lib Dem leader

Harriet Agerholm
Tuesday 30 May 2017 10:13
Tory MP says people who use food banks have 'cashflow problem'

A senior Conservative politician has been criticised for saying people visit food banks because they have a “cash flow problem” rather than poverty.

Dominic Raab, who served as minister for human rights until last year, said the claim came from The Trussell Trust, Britain’s largest food bank network.

But the Trust said that while many of those visiting food banks were experiencing short-term problems with benefits and employment, these issues mostly affected people living below the poverty line.

An audience member during BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire asked Mr Raab: “If things are improving so much under the Tories, why are so many people using food banks?”

Mr Raab said: “What they tend to find is the typical user of food banks is not someone that is languishing in poverty, it is someone who has a cash flow problem episodically.”

The comments were jeered by audience members. Mr Raab responded: “It’s true. That is what the Trussell Trust data says.”

John Nicolson, of the SNP, said: “Just to clarify, Dominic, you’re telling the country, here on this programme, that the Trussell Trust, who deal with poverty, told you personally that the problem with food banks wasn’t people who were on the breadline but people who are having cash flow problems?

“I’m dying to hear from them when they hear that you’ve said that.”

Mr Raab said: “What they do is they keep data that they update quarterly, and then annually, on the reason people are coming to their food banks, and that is what I’m citing.”

Recent figures from the charity showed that 27 per cent of those referred to its food banks were struggling with delays to their benefits. Another 25 per cent were referred because of low income.

David McAuley, chief executive of the Trust, said in a statement that the two issues were linked.

“Our data shows that the main reasons for food bank referral are delays and changes to benefits, and low income issues that included people who are struggling with low pay or insecure forms of employment," he said.

“It is our experience that people living in poverty are more likely to experience a sudden short term crisis which would lead to them being referred for emergency food and support.”

There are at least 2,000 food banks in the UK, with food banks outside the Trussell Trust network opening across the country “at an extraordinary and unmeasured rate”, a report by the Independent Food Aid Network (Ifan) found.

Amid delays in universal credit payments, the Trust provided 1,182,954 three-day emergency food parcels to people in 2016-17, up from 1,109,000 the year before.

Labour's David Lammy, who is seeking re-election as Tottenham's MP in June, volunteered on Twitter to take Mr Raab to a food bank himself, calling him “horrendously ignorant and out of touch”.

Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron said: “Dominic Raab is woefully out of touch and has no idea how much real people are struggling. We are seeing nurses, police officers and the just-about-managing having to go to food banks as their paychecks won't stretch any further.

“People are hurting and the Tories, with comments like this, show they just don't care.

"Today, the mask slipped and we saw the real Tory Party.

“The real reasons people have to go to food banks are low incomes, benefit delays, debt and homelessness."

Comparing him to a figure from the satirical TV show The New Statesman, Mr Farron added: "These are stupid and deeply offensive comments by Dominic Raab and he should apologise. This is the Alan B'Stard view of politics that shames him and his party.“

Labour election co-ordinator Andrew Gwynne said: ”With a million more food supplies being issued this year compared to 2010, the growth of food banks under the Tories is a national scandal.“

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