Yesterday the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Ending the Need for Foodbanks, which I co-chair, launched its first report, 'Cash or Food?'.
Today I pressed the government to meet with me to discuss its findings.
The inquiry, which was supported by the Trussell Trust, examined different types of support for people facing destitution and financial crisis, and compared food-based and cash-first approaches. The report concluded that cash-first support could overcome some of the main challenges with food-based support and make support more accessible, dignified and flexible. However, it also warned that there was no one-size-fits-all approach.
The cross-party members of the inquiry heard evidence from organisations providing support, people with lived experience of financial hardship, and also visited organisations across the country, including in North East Fife.
This is an important report at a really urgent time. The number of people being pushed into financial crisis is alarming. The vital support provided to people must be accessible, effective and dignified, and the inquiry’s report has put forward recommendations to bring that about.
Foodbanks and other community food providers are strong examples of community support and the desire of local people to do what they can to help others. I see that in my own constituency and I’m grateful to everyone involved in running local foodbanks.
However it is also important to recognise that these providers rely on volunteers, community donations and, in some cases, surplus food in order to be able to distribute food to people when they face crisis. This means that food banks can often struggle when there are surges in need or drops in donations, especially when this happens at the same time.
Our ultimate goal should be to prevent people from reaching financial crisis, and the APPG will continue its work on that front. But there is an urgent need for crisis support and we must ensure that it is effective and dignified. The inquiry concluded that cash-first approaches should be the default, but that there should also be a range of options to meets people’s individual needs.
Please find a copy of the report here.
Wendy Chamberlain, co-chairs the APPG on Ending the Need for Foodbanks and was convener of the 'Cash or Food?' inquiry.