In an enterprising move the Scrutiny Task Group on Foodbanks has made a video about the role of foodbanks in Brent that catered for more than five and a half thousand people last year. The roll out of Unoversal Credit this year is likely to increase the numners neeeding to use foodbanks.The Task Grpup, led by Cllr Roxanne Mashari, made 35 recommendations which can be read in the embedded document at the foot of this article.
The Task Group reports states:
Many local authorities like Brent find themselves in uncharted territory in relation to food banks . Alongside the absence of guidance for local authorities, the task group feels that there is room for improvement and external oversight with regards to safety, hygiene and safeguarding in many of the food aid providers locally.
The task group could not find any policy framework, or guidance outlining how local authorities should work with or alongside food banks.
This lack of understanding, policy and coordination presents a significant risk to public sector organisations, food banks and food bank users particularly as we approach the wider roll out of universal credit in 2018.
Time and again our task group heard of benefit delays, universal credit design problems, inaccessibility of services and sanctions driving ordinary people to extraordinary levels of desperation and destitution. We must be clear in our collective determination in Brent that our role as public and private sector bodies is to strategically tackle poverty and increase prosperity, not to create deprivation and poverty through our own policies. The fact that actions of publically funded bodies are a major driving force behind local food bank numbers is a cause for alarm and shame.
We cannot wait for the government to decide to take action when it comes to food banks , we must take matters into our own hands by demonstrating leadership and initiative to stem the tide of destitution and desperation . It is up to us to make sure that residents are not falling through the gaps of services and that there is a coordinated, preventative and interventionist approach.
This task group has brought to light some of the most talented, hardworking and visionary individuals who help run food banks and provide a unique and vital service that would not otherwise be provided . We have also witnessed heart - wrenching stories of neglect, desperation and abject poverty that have been both s hocking and upsetting.
What is clear is that this level of need and poverty must not be normalised or accepted.It is time for all of us to take stock, to not shy away from the scale of the problem and to be nimble enough to respond to the shifting shape of provision for those in destitution, whether we agree with government policy in this area or not.
Our recommendations provide a blueprint for the first few steps in organising a coordinated response to this relatively new phenomenon and we will be holding local leaders to account over the next twelve months in order to translate policy and ideas into action that makes a difference on the ground.