In the House of Lords on 20th March 2014 Lord Beecham asked Her Majesty’s Government ‘what assessment they have made of the number and role of food banks in the United Kingdom.’
The Lord Bishop of Gloucester: My Lords, research by Citizens Advice shows that the main reason people are referred to food banks is delay in the payment of benefits and benefit sanctions; anecdotally, this is also the church’s own experience from its involvement in the many food banks it helps to run across the country. Will the Minister tell us whether the Government are persuaded by this evidence and, if they are not, will he share with us what plans they have to carry out their own research into the reasons leading so many people to seek food aid?
Lord De Mauley: My Lords, I very much acknowledge the right reverend Prelate’s question. While it is right to expect that claimants who are able to look for or prepare for work should do so, a sanction will never be imposed if a claimant has good reason for failing to meet requirements. If claimants demonstrate that they cannot buy essential items, including food, as a result of their sanction, they can claim a hardship payment. No claimant should ever have to go without essentials as a result of a sanction.