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Unite slams 'whitewash' food poverty investigation

'Whitewash' report ignores the hundreds of thousands of people who depend on food banks to eat

Trade unionists branded a government report on food poverty a "whitewash" yesterday as evidence emerged that hundreds of thousands of people depend on food banks to eat.

The Department of Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) finished the report on food poverty a year ago but the government delayed publication.

Now it has been released, general union Unite says it ignores the impact of government welfare reforms on the living standards crisis - including food poverty - hitting hard-pressed communities across Britain.

In Salford in Greater Manchester desperate people seeking welfare advice are increasingly being referred to food banks as the only means of avoiding hunger.

One welfare worker told the Morning Star that changes to regulations meant that the city's poorest people were being left without income - and therefore food -for weeks.

And an advice worker said the crisis loan for the truly penniless had been abolished.

"It has been replaced by local authority emergency immediate assistance, but they don't give them cash, they give them vouchers for electricity, gas - things like that," the worker said. "So we are having to refer these people for food parcels. There is no other help available."

But the Defra report ignores such evidence.

Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner said: "The report was unable to look at the impact of government welfare reforms or the continuing crisis in living standards that is gripping communities across the UK.

"Ministers and advisers have spent a year poring over it to remove the unpalatable truth that the government has created a national crisis, punishing people when they need help, presiding over a dramatic rise in food bank use while George Osborne squeezes living standards in a way unseen since the Victorian era."

Half a million people are being driven to food banks by hunger, but Mr Turner said that "hoping the growing scandal of food poverty will go away" the government had refused to meet food bank providers.

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