Campaigning for change: how do we engage with politicians?

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A blog post by
Garry Lemon
Director of Policy, External Affairs & Research


At The Trussell Trust, we have been clear: no one in the UK should need to use a foodbank. But during the last year, we’ve seen huge increases in people being referred. This isn’t right. And it isn’t inevitable.

We can end hunger and poverty in the UK. Poverty acts like a current, with big structural things – like the rising cost of living or insecure work – sweeping people away and leaving them without enough money for the basics. We know what things will anchor people against those tides and reduce the need for foodbanks.

This isn’t just something we say, this is something we act upon as well.  In recent months we have:

  • Launched the biggest study into foodbank use in UK history, and spoke clearly and publically about how the groups that we find overrepresented in foodbanks are the same that have seen some of the harshest benefit cuts
  • Been in the vanguard of organisations speaking out against Universal Credit, with our research and experience of the failings of this new benefit discussed at all levels of Government
  • Submitted evidence to organisations like the United Nations and National Audit Office about the impact of policies on the ground
  • Gathered together evidence from foodbanks across the UK to successfully call for billions of pounds to be reinvested back into the benefits system. Though by no means fixing all the problems people face, this will make a real difference to the lives of millions of people in the future

We will continue to call for a benefits system that provides sufficient money and support to anyone who needs it; work that is secure and pays fairly; and emergency support from local authorities that fills the gaps when someone is hit by something unexpected.

But to make sure everyone in the UK can access these crucial elements of support, we need policy change. So we must work with the people who have the power to make that change.

As a charity, we work hard to engage with politicians of all parties to make sure that they recognise and understand the issues people referred to foodbanks face, and what needs to happen so people don’t need a foodbank in the future.

Charity law means we can’t be party political – but even if it didn’t, we think it’s important to talk to politicians of all parties. Poverty is an issue that needs action on all sides. If we want to create long-lasting change so people are protected from needing a foodbank in the future, we need everyone – irrespective of political opinion – to get behind the change that’s needed.

As an organisation, we’re clear what our work is about. We want to make sure everyone referred to a foodbank gets the best possible support, but at the same time we’re dedicated to bringing about long-term change so that help isn’t needed in the future.

We’re not a country that will stand for people needing foodbanks. I know the British public want to see a future where nobody is ever pushed to the doors of any charity because there isn’t enough money for the basics.

Getting there might not be easy, but it definitely can be done. Politicians’ support for foodbanks shouldn’t begin and end with a donation – they need to do more. I would ask all politicians to look at the evidence foodbanks in our network have gathered and to act upon it, with the first step they take being an end to the five-week wait for Universal Credit.