Number of people unable to buy food on the increase

Number of people unable to buy food on the increase

PROTEST: Unison members are asking for a "living wage" (3823819)

UNISON: Barry representative Rowan Hughes (3823821)

UNION: The Vale of Glamorgan Council is being asked to provide a "living wage" for workers (3823825)

First published in News

THE number of people suffering such financial difficulties that they are unable to even buy food is increasing daily across Barry.

Demand from those relying on donations to eat has grown to such an extent that a second Foodbank is being opened in the town, this announcement coming in the same week that trade union Unison called for the Vale Council to meet a "living wage" for its lowest paid workers.

On Tuesday (February 4) Unison representative Rowan Hughes spoke at a protest at the council offices in Barry, explaining how people who provide vital services - such as labourers, cooks and street cleaners - are not being paid enough to live on.

Fellow protestors recounted stories of workers visiting not only food banks, but even shop bins and some having to take days off work due to being unable to afford travel costs.

Having already fed more than 5,000 people in crisis, Vale Foodbank co-ordinator Susan Lloyd-Selby recognises that demand is still on the rise, with more and more people finding they simply do not have enough money to feed themselves and their families.

She said: "Last week we supported a young pregnant mum who had been forced to give up work due to health problems and because of delays in her benefit payments she had no money to buy food.

"We are continuing to see an increase in the number of people referred to us for support, particularly young people who cannot find employment and hard-working people on low incomes who have been hit by the bedroom tax."

Rowan Hughes echoed these concerns, describing how a "living wage" - an informal threshold for pay considered adequate to live on - for hard working people, is something that the Vale Council can and should meet.

He said: "We are one of the wealthiest countries in the world and and people are having to use things like food banks. It's a terrible indictment of where we are.

"The Vale of Glamorgan has refused to pay a living wage to our lowest paid workers

"What is pretty annoying is the council has set aside money for pay increases each year but have used them for other purposes.

"They have money set aside for a rainy day, our issue is that we believe that rainy day has come."

Leader of the Vale of Glamorgan council Neil Moore responded: “As far as the issue of the living wage is concerned this is matter that has been discussed several times and was the issue of a recent Scrutiny report, where the principle was not supported.

"The issues and reasons are fully explained within that report which is available through the council’s website.”

The report, from the Corporate Resources Scrutiny meeting of December 10 last year, shows that rather than implement a "living wage", the council decided a better solution to eradicating in-work poverty was to "seek a way of raising a campaign for the improvement of the minimum wage." The legally enforceable minimum wage currently being more than a pound lower than the £7.45 an hour "living wage" recommendation.

Speaking about the opening of the new Foodbank, on St Mary's Church, Holton Road, Jane Hutt AM said: "Over 5,000 food parcels have been distributed across the county due to changes in UK Government Welfare Benefits which have had an adverse impact on many households.

"These include changes in crisis loan eligibility rules, delays in payments, Jobseeker allowances sanctions and sickness benefits reassessments."

She then warned that things were likely to get worse before they get better.

"Only this week the Carers' Alliance has warned that disabled people and their carers face further losses to their incomes as a result of welfare benefits changes," she said.

MP Alun Cairns said: "I am a strong supporter of food banks. They play a key role in bringing people back into the state system of support.

"We need to overcome the underlying cause of the need for people to visit the Foodbank and I am working with the foodbank to establish how I can best intervene on behalf of their users.”

Susan Lloyd-Selby thanked Father Ben Andrews for his support in creating the new centre, which will be open on Friday afternoons from Thursday, February 27.

An information session will be held in St Mary's Church on Thursday, February 6 from 7.30pm to 8.30pm for anyone who is interested in finding out more about the Foodbank.

For more information contact valefoodbank@ymail.com

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