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LABOUR pressed the government today to protect millions of people living in poverty, as foodbanks across the country close amid volunteer and supply shortages.
Shadow environment secretary Luke Pollard demanded that the government ensure 8.4 million people in Britain who already struggle to get enough food can access supplies as the coronavirus pandemic worsens.
“With foodbanks running low on food, many volunteers over the age of 70 are soon needing to self-isolate, what steps is he taking to assist those in genuine hunger today?” he asked in the Commons.
“We won’t get through this crisis unless there’s government intervention to support those people and ensure that we have those food supply chains remaining open.”
Environment Secretary George Eustice replied: “I’ve been in daily calls with the food-supply sector that included discussions around foodbanks and we are in dialogue with supermarkets to ensure we can make sure they get access to the supplies that they need.”
He said that the government was working on “specific proposals” to ensure the most vulnerable in society can access food, adding that those details would be released shortly.
Foodbanks around Britain have reported low stocks this week as a result of shoppers panic-buying.
A number have been forced to close their doors, including Islington foodbank in north London and two in Salisbury.
A foodbank in Knottingley, Yorkshire, was broken into on Wednesday night, with thieves stealing food, sanitary products and basic supplies.
“Truly appalled anyone could do this right now,” said the town’s Labour MP Yvette Cooper.
Operations have been disrupted largely because volunteers — a large proportion over 70 — are having to self-isolate to protect themselves from the virus.
Foodbank charity Trussell Trust chief executive Emma Revie urged people to help where they can by volunteering or donating food or money to their local centres.
She said the government needed to do more to ensure people don’t fall through the cracks, starting with scrapping the five-week wait for universal-credit payments.
“As the outbreak develops, more people than ever could need this help — especially those who aren’t eligible for sick pay or have unstable jobs,” she explained.
“While thousands of our incredible volunteers continue to help people unable to afford the basics, we would ask our government to take this essential step and end the five-week wait now. It’s five weeks too long.”
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