Hardly a week goes by at Westminster without reference to the growing number of foodbanks across our country.
Now the debate has been fuelled by new research by Church Action on Poverty and Oxfam claiming that up to half a million people in the UK are reliant on foodbanks, with around half the direct result of having welfare benefits delayed or stopped.
Foodbanks across North Tyneside rely on volunteers. The Bay Foodbank has distributed more food parcels in the first three months of this year than in the whole of last year.
The welfare system has to be reformed but too often the system fails those in greatest need. The following are real cases.
A claimant turns up five minutes late or finds their adviser is not there. They are told not to worry but the DWP sanctions their benefit. Or they challenge a decision, asking for a reconsideration taking between six and nine months. Their benefit stops, housing benefit stops and they run out of money.
They turn to family, then the local authority. With few options left they are referred to a foodbank. As a volunteer told me, from losing a job to depending on a foodbank can take as little as three months.
The DWP Select Committee should investigate the real impact of welfare changes. And locally we need to support foodbanks which may well be keeping people alive.