A BBC Question Time audience member was widely condemned last night for suggesting people only use foodbanks because they spend their money on cigarettes and alcohol.
The panel on the show were debating the reasons why people were forced to turn to charities to feed themselves with Plaid Cymru leader, Leanne Woods, arguing that delays in benefit payments and “pernicious” Tory welfare reforms were a major factor.
The audience member in question unequivocally disagreed.
He said: “I haven’t visited a foodbank before but I have known people that have. And the vast majority of them that do go for free food, smoke, drink and have Sky television.”
After a loud collective groan and cries of “what?” from the rest of the audience, the man doubled down and said: “And that is the truth.”
Wood, reacted in disbelief, saying: “Some people who use foodbanks are in work.”
Figures from the UK’s main foodbank service provider, The Trussell Trust, show it provided 1,182,954 three day emergency food supplies to people in crisis last year compared to 1,109,309 in 2015-16.
Of this number, 436,938 went to children.
Foodbanks in areas of full Universal Credit rollout to single people, couples and families, have seen a 16.85% average increase in referrals for emergency food, more than double the national average of 6.64%, suggesting welfare cuts rather than lifestyle habits play a role, Trussell Trust figures show.
The charity also found that people in insecure or seasonal work are particularly affected, suggesting the work incentives in Universal Credit are not yet helping everyone.
The Trussell Trust also notes homelessness, domestic abuse, and delayed wages as factors in forcing people to rely on foodbanks.
David Dimbleby chaired the topical debate from Wigan. On the panel were Conservative Brexit secretary David Davis, Labour’s shadow business secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey, UKIP leader Paul Nuttall, Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood and the CEO of Siemens UK Juergen Maie