Breakdown Of The Welfare State

banquet08:08 Tuesday 13th August 2013
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

[P]AUL STAINTON: A charity running food banks across the County says the number of people needing free food boxes is going up, and that there’s no end in sight to that rise. Steve Bolton, who is the Regional Development Officer for the Trussell Trust says the demand for their services has been higher since the start of the school holidays. (TAPE)
STEVE BOLTON: We anticipate that rise continuing as has already been indicated. And of course once we get beyond the Summer into the Winter, you’re then into people having to pay more for fuel costs. And we know fuel costs are going up as well, as well as food prices going up. So the situation is likely to get worse before it gets better. (LIVE)
PAUL STAINTON: Karl Relton is the Chair of Trustees at the Ely Food Bank. They’ve seen demand rise by 15% in the past three months. And the three months before that another 15%. He said the other safety nets meant to be in place to help people who are struggling are not really working. (TAPE)
KARL RELTON: There’s just something in the system, in the way it works, specially in the delays. It’s benefit delays and benefit problems is always the biggest cause of people needing to come to us. And now with the trimming of benefits, we are seeing the results of that squeeze on people. (LIVE)
PAUL STAINTON: Tom in Peterborough feels it’s disgraceful that people are having to go to food banks when we give out money to other countries in foreign aid. Many of you commenting this morning. Some people are saying, well, don’t have kids if you can’t afford them. Well I suppose if your circumstances change what can you do.  I’m joined by Helen Crowther who’s the Society Policy Coordinator at the Cambridge Citizens Advice Bureau. Morning Helen.
PAUL STAINTON: We’ve heard some awful stories this morning of people, and you think to yourself there but for the grace of God go I.
HELEN CROWTHER: Yes. Exactly. We actually have four people on average who we refer to food banks per week. And from January to August there’ve been 200 people. So yes. It is quite high numbers.
PAUL STAINTON: And we heard from Karl earlier saying society is effectively letting these people down. We should be doing more.
HELEN CROWTHER: Yes. Absolutely. It is for Government really to be providing the support, because charities are so much dependent on people’s good will and volunteers. But it’s the welfare state that should be the safety net for people.
PAUL STAINTON: The Government was saying the changes(?) in benefit were out there to help people. Have they helped do you think?
HELEN CROWTHER: Well actually we’re finding that a lot of people who need food vouchers need them because of operational failures in the welfare system, and so benefit delays, delays in processing benefits to start with, so given the change(?) onto Universal Credit, how it’s going to be digital by default, and people are going to get paid in one monthly lump sum. And we could actually see a real rise in people needing food vouchers, especially because if there are delays in benefit then, then it’s the whole benefit that is delayed, rather than just JobSeekers or Employment Support Allowance for instance.
PAUL STAINTON: What can you do as a CAB to help these people, and what do you do?
HELEN CROWTHER: Well we’re the only local organisation to offer all four strands of money management support. So we offer support on debt, money advice or spending, so we help people decide on what insurance to get, help people maximise their incomes, so do benefit checks for instance to see how people can be better off by working more hours. And also we provide people with financial capability. So we educate people and provide people with money management skills, to help people budget for themselves.
PAUL STAINTON: Helen, thank you for that. Helen Crowther, Society Policy Coordinator at the Cambridge Citizens Advice Bureau.