Labour accused the cabinet minister of trying to “explain away the rise in foodbank use”
Amber Rudd has said there are people using food banks because they don’t know which benefits they are entitled to. The Work and Pensions Secretary said that her department had agreed for experts to go into the centres to help people with welfare advice.
But Labour accused the cabinet minister of trying to “explain away the rise in foodbank use”.
Ms Rudd told BBC Five Live’s Emma Barnett: “sometimes I discover when I go to visit the food banks there are people in there who don’t know what access to benefits they had, which is why it’s important that there’s a good relationship between us and the food banks, which generally there is.”
But the cabinet minister insisted she did not think that foodbank use would be eradicated if everyone was on the right benefits. She said: “No, I just said I don’t know if you’ve been to a food bank, I’ve been to a few of them, and in my experience, as I say, and this is my conversations with some of the people there, is that they need to understand sometimes what benefits they are entitled to. Some people struggle to make those applications.”
Last month Ms Rudd was forced to admit that the increased use of food banks is partly down to problems in rolling out universal credit. Research released by the Trussell Trust charity showed the use of food banks had increased by 52% in areas where universal credit had been in place for at least a year – compared with 13% in areas where it had not been.
She acknowledged in the House of Commons in February: “The main issue which led to an increase in food bank use could have been the fact that people had difficulty accessing their money early enough.
Labour’s shadow work and pensions secretary Margaret Greenwood blamed families being trapped in poverty for the figures. She said: “Rather than trying to explain away the rise in foodbank use, the Work and Pensions Secretary should take a good hard look at the government’s own poverty figures.
“It is little wonder that 70% of children growing up in poverty live in working families when so many people are trapped in low paid, insecure work.
“Foodbank providers are clear about the part played by the benefits freeze and the five-week wait for Universal Credit payments. “Labour will end the benefits freeze, stop the rollout of Universal Credit and ensure that our social security system is there to support any of us should we need it.”