Labour councillor claims some foodbank users have been ‘taking the p**s’
Twm Owen, local democracy reporter
A Labour councillor has claimed some people using foodbanks “do not need them” and even treat them as a joke.
During a discussion on food poverty and local food production in Torfaen – where the leading foodbank charity the Trussel Trust hands out around 6,000 food parcels every year – one councillor suggested action should be taken to “embarrass” people not in need who have been “taking the piss”.
During the discussion Cllr Caroline Price claimed she had worked with a woman who would laugh about using a foodbank in a neighbouring county, and asked if action would be taken on people claiming parcels which she said they do not need.
The Pontypool Fawr councillor, who is employed by Monmouthshire council as a community meals service provider, said: “You talk about the stigma (of using food banks) but what about the people who go to foodbanks and don’t need them?
“There used to be a woman who worked with me she used to think it was funny to get all her milk and all her bread from the Goytre one, and she didn’t need to go. So you’ve got people like that going as well.”
At that point the scrutiny committee chair, independent councillor Mark Jones who also represents Pontypool Fawr, claimed “there is no means testing”, although Trussell Trust foodbanks only give food to those who have been referred to them.
Llanfrechfa and Ponthir member Karl Gauden warned against frightening people in “genuine” need from using food banks and said it should also be understood some groups work on a no questions asked basis while food sharing services often aren’t only aimed at those in poverty.
The Labour councillor said he recognised the issue but said: “I’d rather we not put in more checks and balances as that might deter the more, inverted commas, ‘genuine recipients’, from attending.
“The chair mentioned means testing, we’re not about that. The difference with the kind of pop-up food sharing stuff with the Trussell Trust is you do need a referral from a GP, or a man of the cloth, as I understand it, I’m not entirely sure of the criteria, with the food share stuff it’s rock up if you are in need.
“It gets blurred as well, because I know Tasty Not Wasty in Llanyrafon take close-to-date items from Greggs, the Co-op, and supermarkets and it’s open for all. Why shouldn’t people go along and get that rather than it going to waste?
“I think we need to be careful about introducing too many hoops to jump through before accessing food share as it could put off the more, inverted commas, ‘genuine’ recipients from coming along.”
He adds he “anecdotally” knew of someone who would attend “our foodbank and on the same day used to go to one or two others as well and didn’t really need the stuff”.
Panteg member Nathan Yeowell said he agreed with Cllr Gauden that there shouldn’t be means testing but suggested the council and third sector charities, volunteer and community groups 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 piss to try and deter them from doing it in a systematic manner.”
The Labour councillor said that could be “wrapped up” in a communications campaign to “ensure there is best use of the service by people who need it the most.”
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