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Food bank use a national scandal

17th Oct 2013

Unfair benefit sanctions are forcing Welsh families to turn to food banks, says Oxfam Cymru.

Reacting to the latest figures released on World Food Day by the Trussell Trust, Head of Oxfam Cymru Julian Rosser said:

"Food banks are doing an amazing and essential job for people in crisis in Wales, but the number of people now resorting to them is turning into a national scandal.

The Trussell Trust announced that use of food banks in Wales had almost tripled over the past year.

 "Benefit changes such as bedroom tax are placing intolerable pressure on family budgets. Working people are going to foodbanks because they don't have enough paid hours to make ends meet. But the newest scourge is the number of people sanctioned by the JobCentre for trivial reasons."

A young pregnant woman from the Rhondda, known to one of the charity's projects, who lost a week's benefit because she had apparently failed to spread out her job applications evenly across a fortnight.

A Denbighshire woman was threatened with sanctions because she wanted to attend the National Eisteddfod for a couple of days.

An Oxfam shop volunteer with severe depression had her benefit withdrawn after a medical where no questions were asked about her mental health.

Meanwhile, evidence is mounting a 'sanctions culture' in the benefit service. The PCS union reports that its members  can face disciplinary action if they fail to sanction an 'appropriate level' of claimants.

Mr Rosser added: "We call on the DWP to urgently review its sanctions policies and call on the Welsh Government to give food poverty priority when working on anti-poverty strategies."