The tragic news from the Trussell Trust that in the latest 6 month period their network of foodbanks have handed food parcels to 500,000 people is evidence that the network continues to see an increase in demand for their services. It is a tragedy that should act as a catalyst for the Government to act. However they continue to appear unwilling to accept any sense of responsibility for stemming the flow of families who are being referred to foodbanks in huge numbers. The Trussell Trust represents a sizable number of foodbanks but there are many Independent foodbanks who lack the infrastructure to be able to provide the reports that Trussell have provided. If this flood of people needing food was water flooding over the Somerset Levels there would be numerous visits by Government Ministers, COBRA meetings and promises (even if ones that would be broken) by the Prime Minister that unlimited resources would be made available to address the impact of the crisis. There would also be criticism by Ministers of the Government Agencies that could have reduced the risk of the flooding. If the impact of hungry families on the UK were reports of a disease, albeit one that has been present for decades like Ebola, the Government would have convened a meeting of COBRA to examine what can be done to avoid the disease impacting our nation. After one case of Ebola it appears that the screening programme established following the COBRA meeting is being examined and one suspects it will be strengthened following the inevitable press response.
It would be a travesty of our humanity to criticise the Somersetians for the floods or their decision to live in a low lying County, but all of us can understand the need to plan for rising water levels and increasing community resilience. We must all work together to ensure that the best defences are provided and that homeowners and farmers respond to changing environmental circumstances. It would also be a terrible thing for us to leave West Africans to deal alone with Ebola and ignore their needs or indeed the needs of those who work to help them such as the nurse infected and now being treated.
The reasons for the increase of foodbank use are many and complex. However defensive and ignorant statements by Politicians need to be condemmed by all of us, and they need to learn from their mistakes and resolve issues that are contributing to the current demand. At the end of 2014 and as we approach the beginning of 2015 and the General Election, one can only hope that members of all Political Parties will treat the 1-2 Million people who will need to access a foodbank during 2015 with the same priority and compassion as those flooded in Somerset or infected with Ebola. If that means calling a meeting of COBRA some of us would argue that it is about time.