Rising demand for food banks in Birmingham is a ‘stain’ on the city, according to councillors.
The declaration came as Birmingham City Council’s ruling Labour group backed a motion supporting BirminghamLive’s #BrumFeeds campaign and calling for changes in Government welfare policy to tackle poverty.
Demand for food banks has risen, partly as a result of the switch of many benefits to Universal Credit . There is also high demand in the summer holidays when free school meals are not available.
The #BrumFeeds campaign has been collecting donations for the city’s ten Trussell Trust food banks as they provide essential support for those in drastic need.
Coun Fred Grindrod praised the work of the B30 foodbank in his Cotteridge ward.
“There are distressing cases of parents struggling to provide a meal for their children, vulnerable adults with multiple needs and the many, many people who had their lives damaged by the chaos of the Universal Credit roll out.
“The stories are heartbreaking and should cause us as a society significant shame.”
He said it was a ‘grave and disastrous’ situation and a stain on the city and called on his colleagues to challenge those who write off food bank users and welfare claimants as scroungers.
Coun Grindrod was speaking in support of the council motion put forward by city communities chief Tristan Chatfield.
The motion stated: “In the fifth richest country in the world, it is wrong that charitable donations and the compassion of individuals are seen as an acceptable alternative to an adequately funded welfare state.
“We must not accept a society where food banks are necessary.”
Councillors of all sides applauded the #Brumfeeds campaign and the work of charities and faith groups running food banks throughout the city.
Opposition Conservatives also applauded the work of food banks and volunteers but argued the causes of poverty were complex and the council needed to work with Government and other agencies to tackle poverty.
They said Birmingham Labour was ‘grandstanding’ and using the issue to attack the Government.
Conservative Coun Suzanne Webb (Castle Vale) said that, instead of complaining to Government: “Birmingham City Council should be focused on what it can and should be doing to address the primary causes of food poverty.
She accused Labour of ‘getting bogged down in debate about austerity and welfare reform’ while offering no solutions.
“This is about fixing a problem and not getting caught up in the blame game. How we treat our most vulnerable reflects on our city and ensuring the ladder of opportunity is one everyone can climb is essential to making Birmingham the best it can be.
“We all have a strong desire to ensure Birmingham is a city that cares and where no one goes hungry.”
She called for a unified and compassionate approach to the problem.
The motion in full
“This council applauds the magnificent efforts of the Birmingham Post and Mail and the response of the people of this city to the BrumFeeds foodbank campaign.
“The council further acknowledges the ongoing efforts of faith groups, charities and other third sector organisations to feed and clothe those in desperate need.
“However, in the fifth richest country in the world, it is wrong that charitable donations and the compassion of individuals are seen as an acceptable alternative to an adequately funded welfare state.
“The impact of continued austerity and welfare reforms mean that Birmingham’s foodbanks have reached crisis point and it is unacceptable that, with record numbers of people needing help, they are struggling cope with the overwhelming demand.”
Foodbanks and those who make donations perform a vital role in making sure everyone has somewhere to turn in times of need.
But we must not accept a society where food banks are necessary.
Council resolves to help food banks across the city highlight the growing concerns and calls on the Government to recognise that it has a moral and practical duty to protect people from poverty and to provide a safety net.
Government must not stand idly by while charity shoulders the responsibilities of the state and the council calls upon the Government to provide local government with the resources to deal with this crisis.”