First of all, may I congratulate the hon. Member for Houghton and Sunderland South (Bridget Phillipson) on her appointment to her role representing the Speaker’s Committee on the Electoral Commission? I thought she did a very good job of answering the questions.
Seventy-five per cent. of churches collect food, 38% provide volunteers, 29% help to manage a food bank, and 21% distribute food vouchers. Churches also work in partnership with organisations such as Citizens Advice and Christians Against Poverty to tackle the underlying causes of food poverty.
I thank the right hon. Lady for that response. As she will know, the Archbishop of Canterbury is the president of Feeding Britain, and I was pleased to be able to launch its latest pilot in Bristol on Friday. I appreciate the work that churches are doing in providing food banks, and the other work that she outlined. What more can they do to lobby the Government on the underlying causes of food poverty that cause people to resort to such measures?
Christians Against Poverty is proactive in trying to tackle the underlying causes by offering free debt advice and financial education programmes, for example. The charity has just appointed Dickens Heath church in my constituency to provide those courses over a wide region, so I suggest that the hon. Lady may like to approach it about doing the same in Bristol.
The right hon. Lady will be pleased to hear that food banks in Stroud are run largely through the churches, but they are under huge pressure due to the number of volunteers they need and the amount of food that they have to collect. Will she have a word with the Government about the sanctions regime, which is one of the major causes of the increase in food bank usage?
As Members of Parliament, it is important that we address the underlying causes. I had a letter from the Trussell Trust just last month, which said that people
“may be reassured to hear that, on average people are only referred to Trussell Trust foodbanks two times in a 12-month period”,
and that the model is
“designed to help people in a crisis”.
As Members, we need to address the nature of the crises that make it necessary for people to get help.