MP forced to send more than a thousand constituents to a single foodbank

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·Political Correspondent, Yahoo News UK
·4-min read
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 Jess Phillips MP speaking at The Listening Post, on the second day of the Latitude festival in Henham Park, Southwold, Suffolk. Picture date: Saturday July 24, 2021. Photo credit should read: Matt Crossick/Empics
Labour MP Jess Phillips told Yahoo News UK that she has been forced to refer more than 1,000 constituents to foodbanks amid the escalating cost-of-living crisis. (PA)

An MP has been forced to send more than 1,000 constituents to a foodbank amid the escalating cost-of-living crisis.

Jess Phillips, MP for Birmingham Yardley and shadow minister for women and girls, said her constituents are "being pushed to the brink of homelessness by their bills".

Rising inflation, soaring energy bills, and tax hikes are putting immense pressure on British households - with the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) warning living standards are facing the biggest fall since records began.

On Tuesday, the Independent Food Aid Network (IFAN) wrote to Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak calling on them to address the “rapidly rising” poverty and hunger amid the soaring cost of living.

Read more: Cost of living crisis: The everyday food items that are soaring in price

The letter, by a group of 550 foodbanks from across the UK, said they are close to “breaking point” due to unprecedented demand.

Phillips said she "doesn't know how [people] would cope" in her Birmingham Yardley constituency if foodbanks ran out of supplies, describing the situation as "Victorian" and "Dickensian".

"I went to this foodbank because a woman had her arm broken in a domestic violence situation and she couldn't get there - so I said: 'Look, I'll just go and pick up the food'," she told Yahoo News UK on Thursday.

Volunteers at the Black Country Food Bank prepare food parcels for vulnerable individuals and families at their base in Halesowen today.   (Photo by David Jones/PA Images via Getty Images)
A group of 550 foodbanks from across the UK warned Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak on Tuesday that they are running out of supplies amid unprecendent demand. (Getty Images)

"And when I got there, they said that the person before me had been had been the 1000th referral from my office to one of six foodbanks.

"They were like: 'We gave her a box of chocolates... [as the] 1,000th referral from Jess Phillips's office'."

It is estimated there were some 2,537,198 Trussell Trust foodbank clients in 2020/2021 - a steep increase from 2019/2020 when there were around 1,906,625.

Read more: 'We’ve got empty shelves': Food bank’s stark warning as donations dry up

Birmingham Yardley has the sixth highest level of fuel poverty in the country.

"The whole system in the cost-of-living crisis is affecting literally every one of my constituents without question," Phillips said.

"It’s going to just make the already dreadful problem of homelessness catapult to the absolute next level - and that will be really, really dreadful.”

foodbank users since 2014/2015
Food bank users in the UK. (Trussell Trust)
Inflation
Inflation is at its highest level for 30 years. (ONS CPI)

She added: "We're seeing people who definitely don't have a history of looking for foodbanks."

Phillips said the soaring cost of living was having an especially deep impact on women fleeing domestic violence.

"There is a disproportionate problem... trying to get single women into housing escaping from violent relationships," said Phillips.

"You spend your entire time being like: 'Oh my God, they're not going to be able to pay their bills [if they leave their violent partner], and they're going to end up homeless' - so you're taking someone literally out of the frying pan and into the fire... and already we're seeing it happening with people saying: 'Well, I can't afford to leave'.

Read more: ‘It’s horrible’: Mum of three with incurable breast cancer unable to put heating on as energy bills soar

"So they'll stay like that - it is happening all the time."

The MP also warned that much of the temporary accommodation available to women fleeing violence with their children is potentially unsafe and inadequate.

"They're being put in horrendously inappropriate accommodation, shared accommodation with three kids," she said.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak react at a statement on the economic update session, at the House of Commons in London, Britain March 23, 2022. UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/Handout via REUTERS  ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT. IMAGE MUST NOT BE ALTERED.
The prime minister and chancellor have defended their record on helping Brits with the cost-of-living crisis. (Reuters)

"[I know of a] woman who is going through the criminal justice system because of being raped, and they're being put in this dreadful accommodation. We're fighting to get them out."

The prime minister and the chancellor have defended support they have announced in recent months for struggling families including: 5p off fuel duty, an extra £500m for the Household Support Fund, and a partially repayable £350 rebate on energy bills.

"People are looking at what's happening around them and seeing prices go up. And of course, people are worried by that," Sunak told the Northern Echo on Tuesday.

Read more: 'My life changed overnight': What it's like living with cancer in a cost-of-living crisis

"And I want them to be reassured that me and the government are on their side, and doing what we can to ease the burdens that they are facing."

However, experts have warned some 1.3m Brits and 500,000 children could be pushed into absolute poverty in 2022/23 without urgent government action.

Watch: Cost of living crisis: The pensioners forced to use food banks and turn off their central heating

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