Dr Alf raises a factual point in that the number of people using food-banks has risen to about 400,000 from a standing start of zero 4 years ago.
What the Observer article does not tell us is why, other than the cuts made under welfare reform and a very tough regime of “sanctions” designed to force benefit recipients off the register.
What it also does not deal with is the much older problem of people, particularly children going without food, before food banks ever existed.
Hunger in the UK is not supposed to have existed since at least the time of the Miners strike under Margaret Thatcher in 1984, yet I know from a number of people in the teaching profession that on a daily basis a small proportion of youngsters come to school without having eaten anything for breakfast or any form of cooked meal the night before.
I also know that 50% of rough sleepers are ex-forces personnel, who because of a lack of an address cannot get benefits, cannot get housing from local authorities, including the one covering my own area and cannot get food unless it is from rummaging in dumpsters.
A proportion of people on benefits who are sanctioned have their benefits held up due to inefficiency and bloody mindedness by DWP staff and are thus forced to resort to food banks, others I know, (based on first hand knowledge of such people, through earlier work in the insurance industry and my late father’s friends buy to let activity with Housing Benefit recipients), are poor at budgeting and have spent their benefit money on other things such as large quantities of beer in Wetherspoon pubs, cannabis, recreational drugs, expensive and fierce dogs like Rottweilers and Japanese Tozers, wide-screen televisions, cigarettes and package holidays.
In my own local area, I can take people like Nick Cohen or indeed anyone to Letchworth town centre where benefit recipients can be seen leaving the Jobcentre, walking 100 yards to one of 2 pubs and then guzzling pints of beer.
Others will go for the cheaper alternative of going to Morrisons and buying 6 packs of strong lager,vodka and then devouring fish and chips,sometimes several times a week.
Often very well fed dogs of the breeds referred to can be seen tethered to the chairs outside in the summer months whilst the outside air is full of cigarette smoke and the increasingly loud voices of benefit recipients in various states of inebriation.
Visits to council estates where many of these people live reveal satellite television dishes and old but sometimes quite large cars.
People like the single mother reported on by Radio London yesterday who obtained 8 payday loans to raise £2000 gbp to buy Christmas presents for her 3 and 8-year-old and who now wishes to blame the payday loan companies for her fecklessness has gone on record as saying she will not repay these loans because she cannot afford it but will take out new loans to pay her utility and food bills because she cannot afford,food and heating having spent the money on Christmas presents are the tip of a much larger iceberg.
The days of going to the barber and being asked in a knowing way “anything for the weekend sir” are gone, contraceptives have been fully available everywhere along with appropriate advice for more than 50 years, yet 1 child in 7 is born out-of-wedlock (the highest illegitimacy rate in Western Europe) and people without work or the means to pay for children seem to have no concept of not having children ,yet have them anyway knowing that working taxpayers will pick up the bill and house them as well.
Whilst food-banks do nothing for the image of the UK as a first world country and income inequality is a disgrace I would want to go through the spending of all 400,000 food-bank users for the past year in minute detail before laying all the blame at Ian Duncan Smith,s door or of DWP staff.