Monday, May 21, 2018

Leeds Food Aid and the Need to Change the Welfare Narrative

I attended a wonderful meeting of Leeds Food Aid Network (LFAN) on the 10th of May and they organise food collections from the public and supermarkets etc. and via Food Banks give out food parcels to citizens in the city. Their research showed that demand for food bank parcels had grown by 3% in a year and this was up from 26,831 parcels in 2016 to 27,873 in 2017 with the main Tressell Trust being responsible for 67% of food banks parcels. I learnt a lot at this meeting and for example people are only entitled (after being referred) to 3 parcels every 6 months. Benefit cuts was given as the main reason for food poverty by the respondents and I argued that tragically there was significant public support for benefit cuts and we perhaps needed to change the narrative on welfare. There seems to be two welfare states in the UK, one for ordinary people which is meagre, is often associated with stigma and shame and another for the wealthy with over 1,000 tax reliefs, £93b in corporate tax cuts and tax subsidies (the equivalent of £3,500 per household) and tax avoidance by the wealthy of £120b a year. As a civilised society perhaps we need to change the narrative that seems to blame the poor to one of decent benefits for all (and we may need one day), hopefully then there would be no need for food banks although we should still continue to make better use of food which is currently wasted. LFAN found 50% of referrals to food banks were for single people (up from 45% last year) and 17% were from single parents, 16% were from dual parents and 3% put their need down to benefit delays; low income was given by 24.5%) and 18% blamed benefit changes and 9% pointed to debt. For a fairer, better, more equal society we perhaps need decent welfare for all which treats citizens with dignity. SO WHAT'S IN THE BMJ THIS WEEK? . Assisted dying: Guernsey rejects proposal to move forward legislation. . Promises to treat more people at home fails to materialise as community services report cuts. . BMA reopening negotiations over imposed junior doctor contracts. . FDA names and shames branded pharma companies that obstruct generics development. . New guidance on reflective practice to be published in wake of Bawa-Garba case. . Capping entry visas is creating "massive longstanding" problems says head of NHS trust. . Junior doctor wins legal protection for all trainees who report safety concerns. . UK is taken to court for failing to tackle air pollution. . Experimental vaccine ready for use in Congo's Ebola outbreak. . Fall in GP numbers "extremely concerning" says BMA. . Accountable care organisations: campaigners lose first legal fight over NHS rollout. Read all about it! With best wishes, Barry

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