Monday, February 17, 2014

Edwina Currie wrong to criticise foodbanks, counters charity

A Catholic charity has spoken out in support of foodbanks after a former Tory minister said that they were counterproductive and could do more harm than good.

The St Vincent de Paul Society (SVP), which organises several foodbanks and whose members volunteer at others, criticised remarks by Edwina Currie on the BBC Daily Politics programme on Monday that food banks could be counterproductive in meeting the complex needs of the poor.

Foodbanks were often a “necessary step” on the journey to better solutions, the charity argued.

Elizabeth Palmer, the Chief Executive of the St Vincent de Paul Society, which was recently awarded a Big Society Award by the Prime Minister, said that as well as providing food, the charity’s 10, 000 volunteers befriend people who attend food banks to support them in other areas such as debt.

“Addressing the immediate need is a necessary measure in the journey to providing a longer-term solution, and neither one approach devalues the other,” she said.

Ms Currie has been an outspoken critic of foodbanks. In an article for the Spectator website last month she said that “pernicious” food banks made users poorer.

“Like giving money to ‘homeless’ beggars on London streets, it encourages more of what it seeks to relieve,” she argued. She added that in some cases food banks also put local shops out of business.

This week during a visit to Stockport in Manchester, she said that foodbanks “don’t teach people how to get a job and hold on to it,” according to the Manchester Evening News.

The SVP said that food banks were vital for people in crisis.

“In general, food bank clients are referred by third parties who have identified a genuine need and food is provided to those who are in a crisis situation,” it said.