A CALL to “embarrass” people to prevent alleged misuse of foodbanks has been criticised amid fears it could deter those in need from seeking help.
Every year the UK’s leading foodbank charity, the Trussell Trust, distributes around 6,000 food parcels in Torfaen, but a borough councillor said action is needed to prevent people who do not need help from taking parcels. That prompted a colleague to suggest people should be “embarrassed” to prevent them “taking the p***”.
Cllr Caroline Price claimed, during a council meeting, a woman she worked with used to collect “all her bread and milk” from a foodbank when “she didn’t need to go” and would laugh about it.
Her Labour colleague, Cllr Nathan Yeowell, then suggested the council and charities should work together on communications. He said: “We could ask people, ‘do they need to come here?’ It’s better than saying you can’t come. There’s an element around the edges we are embarrassing people who might be taking the p*** to try and deter them from doing it in a systematic manner.”
But Cllr Giles Davies, who recently quit the ruling Labour group on Torfaen council, said leader Anthony Hunt should call both councillors in to his office “to give their heads a wobble” and said he feared people may now fear asking for help.
The independent councillor said: “The leader should be having them in and he should give their heads a bit of a wobble.
“This has made me so angry. My blood pressure went through the roof when I read the article and it has annoyed me these are two Labour councillors.”
Cllr Yeowell is a director and founder of centre-right Labour Party campaign groups and Cllr Davies described Cllr Price, who works as a community meals service provider for Monmouthshire council, as having been involved with the trade union movement.
“One is involved in the Labour Party and should know better and the other is, or has, been involved with the trade unions so she should know people are struggling,” said the former Labour councillor.
He said Cllr Price shouldn’t have assumed her former colleague may not have needed to use a foodbank.
“How can she say that? She might not know her circumstances or know the background and she could have been making light of having to use the foodbank. I can’t judge people as I don’t know what’s going on behind closed doors.
“People are struggling. My gas and electricity used to be £70 a month now it’s up to £400 a month, but I’m lucky I’ve got a good job and I’ve not got massive loans. But people with a big house or a new car might find their bills have gone up, council tax has gone up, food prices are up and all of a sudden they can’t cope.
“Pay day might be a week away and they might be a bit short. It might be only once, or twice, a year and it could be they have a bill to pay or they can’t eat.”
Cllr Davies, who represents Abersychan, said he is involved with the Garnsychan Partnership and the Noddfa Church independent foodbank, which unlike those run by Trussell Trust, allows people to ask for help without having to be referred.
“It’s no questions asked but if people are trying it on volunteers know how to spot that and even if you did get half a dozen doing that you could have 20 who are in desperate need.
“We’ve worked hard as we don’t want people to feel embarrassed and for there to be stigma around using a foodbank and these comments could put people off from coming to the foodbank.”