First Minister ‘in awe of’ foodbank workers
First Minister Mark Drakeford has praised work done at foodbanks across Wales, while condemning the UK government’s impact on our poorest people.
Local Senedd Member Joyce Watson raised issues from her recent visit to Ammanford Foodbank in Wind Street, Ammanford, where staff and volunteers briefed her on their ambitious plans to increase support to local communities.
Huge increase in poverty
Answering Joyce Watson’s question at First Minister’s Questions in the Senedd, Cardiff Bay, First Minister of Wales (Tuesday 6 February 2024) Mark Drakeford thanked her, saying: “When you visit a foodbank, you are immediately in awe of the commitment that people who run them show every single week.
“But I’m always struck by the fact that one of the very first things that people tell you when you get there is how much they wished they didn’t need to be doing what they are doing.”
He condemned the huge increase in poverty under the Conservative government, saying: “In years to come, the things that people will remember most from the last 14 years will be foodbanks and street homelessness. Those will be the two visible signs of the impact of 14 years of Conservative Government on the lives of those people who have the least. And the figures are exactly as Joyce Watson set out, in the growth in foodbanks, with the number of parcels for children in Wales increasing by 83 per cent in the last five years.”
Joyce Watson MS had told him: “I visited Ammanford foodbank and was in awe of the hard work and dedication by the staff and the volunteers. And I’d like to take the opportunity to thank them for all their commitment to helping others—it’s truly inspiring.
“Demand for help from foodbanks has grown considerably in recent years. Before the Tories came to power, foodbanks were a marginal service, but by 2020-21 it had reached 2.6 million packages.
“The current cost-of-living crisis, delays to welfare payments like universal credit, with a five-week wait for any money whatsoever, and the reduction in local housing allowance benefits were cited as the biggest reasons for using foodbanks during my visit.”
Welsh Government support
The First Minister said that, since 2019, the Welsh Government had provided £18.85 million, including £2 million in this financial year, to support community food organisations.
That funding assists them to access, store and distribute additional supplies of good-quality food and other essential goods which support well-being, healthy diets, and personal dignity.
During her recent visit to Ammanford Foodbank Joyce Watson MS learnt that many people identified their low income as their cause of crisis, and had insufficient to meet the basic human needs of food, warmth & shelter.
The number of people the project feeds has gone up dramatically (from 3,054 in May 2022 to 4,535 in May 2023). The number of homeless people doubled in a year.
Joyce Watson MS said: “It is shocking that we are talking about destitution – foodbanks across Wales are seeing the highest level of need ever.
“Recent research shows that the poorest families in the UK must spend an average of 63p in each pound to meet basic food and energy needs.
“I am glad that the Welsh Government has prioritised tackling child poverty, putting the protection of those most in need at the heart of their toughest budget yet.
“People in Wales know first-hand how decisions taken by the Tories at Westminster have impacted their lives and their incomes.
“Tackling poverty should be a priority for governments across the UK.”
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