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Food Banks

Did you know that there are over 400 Food Banks, and that 13 million people live below the poverty line, in the UK? If you have seen the recent film 'I, Daniel Blake' you will have seen some of the impact this has on people's lives. Unfortunately this is not fiction and poverty and hunger are real issues even in our affluent area.

The Devizes Food Bank operates across the former area of Kennet District and supplies food boxes to people in need to cover a three day period. Boxes are only issued to people assessed as being in real need through a formal referral system by partner organisations such as Wiltshire Council, Housing Associations or the Citizens Advice Bureau. Increasingly referrals are being made by schools and children's centres although the capacity of these partners to make referrals is being reduced as a result of funding cuts by Government. Over the last 5 years the Food Bank in Devizes has provided 98 tonnes of food to nearly 6000 adults and 3,500 children, and during 2016/17 helped 1,116 adults and 845 children. Locally trends tend to reflect the national picture although, rather worryingly, in this area the proportion of support going to children is higher than typically seen elsewhere. Source: Devizes Foodbank Annual Report for the year to 31st March 2017 as presented to the Annual General Meeting 23rd May 2017

The main reasons shown for people in this area being forced to turn to Food Banks in a crisis are low incomes (28%) and delays in benefit payments being made (32%).

The Liberal Democrats will support families and communities. We want to see a fair society, where everyone has the means to get by and the chance to get on. It means being able to provide for your family, afford decent housing, and enjoy high-quality local services.

The Liberal Democrats are clear - balancing the books on the backs of the poor and disabled, and demonising people who claim benefits, is neither acceptable nor responsible. Although all government budgets must be scrutinised to minimise waste and ensure value for money, this must not be used as an excuse to attack the poor and vulnerable. In any case it is more effective to tackle the causes of the benefits bill - low pay, high rents, unemployment and ill-health.

That's why we will reverse unfair Conservative policies like reducing support for younger people and cutting the benefits of people not fit for work. We will reinstate the legally binding poverty targets of the Child Poverty Act.

In addition, most businesses recognise the long-term value in treating their employers decently and developing their skills. However, there are still too many examples of unscrupulous employers who perpetuate bad practice, which not only exploits workers but can also undermine the competitive position of good employers. This has to change if we are to give everyone a decent chance of earning a living and move towards a more productive economy. Our plans include:

The creation and widespread adoption of a 'good employer' kitemark covering areas such as paying a living wage

Establishing an independent review to consult on how to set a genuine Living Wage across all sectors. We will pay this Living Wage in all central government departments and their agencies, and encourage other public sector employers to do likewise.

Stamp out abuse of Zero Hours Contracts. We will create a formal right to request a fixed contract and consult on introducing a right to make regular patterns of work contractual after a period of time.

Strengthen enforcement of employment rights, including by bringing together relevant enforcement agencies and scrapping employment tribunal fees.