The former MP claimed that the parcelling out of food in the way that is happening in the UK today “marks a move back to the poor law and ends at the workhouse.”
The Church backed Trussell Trust, which runs the foodbank network, has just published figures showing that 913,000 people went to foodbanks in the last 12 months.
Mr Battle warned against the institutionalisation of foodbanks as has happened in Canada over the past 30 years. He warned that in Canada foodbanks have grown, with supermarkets becoming involved. “Foodbanks have become institutionalised as an alternative to the welfare state, “ said Mr Battle, who decried how the supermarkets have become involved using support of foodbanks as a way to do a bit of charitable conscience salving.
Mr Battle declared that the real issue is low pay, with the rich getting richer and the poor poorer. “This cannot be allowed to go on, with the poor effectively being left to pick up the scraps from the rich man’s table,” said Mr Battle who pointed out that the recent Church based ‘Feeding Britain’ report found many of those using foodbanks were on zero hours contracts.
He insisted that the implementation of a living wage and maintaining of the welfare state is the direction in which things should be heading.
Mr Battle will chair a conference in Leeds at the end of February (28/2) titled “Is a Foodbank Justice?”
The Leeds Diocesan Justice and Peace Commission has been compiling data from parishes about who gives to foodbanks, who works and goes to them. “We have been finding the Catholic Church has stepped into the gap left by the removal of the welfare state,” said Mr Battle, who described going to a foodbank as a demeaning experience for people. “I’ve seen people I know completely humiliated by it. It is like looking at people in a prison camp, completely reduced to nothing,” he said.