Wales politics

'Cost of living crisis' forcing more to use food banks

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Image caption The Trussell Trust says more people need its food banks because of the rising cost of living

A charity says the number of people using its food banks in Wales rose nearly threefold in a year and is predicted to rise further.

The Trussell Trust said 29,049 people used its service last year, compared to 11,211 in 2011.

It has 23 food banks in Wales, of which nine opened in the last 12 months and another four will open soon.

"We believe in 2013 that figure is going to get even worse," the trust's Wales network manager Tony Graham said.

"The food banks are increasing in numbers because they are needed.

"Churches and community groups are approaching us.

"They are coming to us and saying 'we need to do something about this need in our community'.

"I think people are waking up to the scale of the crisis that we are suggesting and predicting isn't going to get better any time soon with static and decreasing incomes in real terms and an increase in the cost of living."

'Static incomes'

The food distributed by the trust is donated by the public and given to people who public service professionals think need help.

Doctors, nurses, social workers or staff at housing associations can give people vouchers which are exchanged for parcels at the trust's food banks.

During a Westminster Hall debate, Labour claimed families were suffering a "cost of living crisis".

Cardiff West MP Kevin Brennan said some families had to chose between "heating and eating".

He said: "Ministers in the Tory-led coalition government should be asking themselves, what the impact of their policies will be on the hundreds of thousands of Welsh families who're already struggling to make ends meet."

Plaid Cymru MP Hywel Williams said "bluster" between political parties about who is responsible was an "unwelcome distraction from the real issue which is that, in the 21st century, people are still struggling to afford enough food to eat in one of the richest countries in the world".

Backbench Conservatives criticised the debate and they stressed food banks pre-dated the coalition government.

Aberconwy MP Guto Bebb called it a "self indulgent debate" and an excuse to have "an attack on government".

Wales Office minister Stephen Crabb also criticised the timing of the debate, noting that no Labour MPs raised the issue of food banks until May 2010.

He described it as "the latest stage in a political campaign by the Labour Party to use the food bank movement as a vehicle for its political attack".

Mr Crabb stressed the UK government's commitment to supporting the poorest in communities through clamping down on pay-day loans and doorstep lenders, and by offering winter fuel payments to help with increasing energy bills.

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