Bishop Speaks to MPs’ Hunger Inquiry

by Gerry Lynch last modified 11 Jun, 2014 11:58 AM

Parliamentary Committee investigating hunger in contemporary Britain takes evidence in Salisbury

Bishop Speaks to MPs’ Hunger Inquiry

Left-to-right: Clare Moody MEP, John Glen MP, Councillor Tom Corbin, Bishop Nicholas, Frank Field MP.

The All Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Hunger and Food Poverty heard evidence in Salisbury on Friday 6th June 2014. Organised by Salisbury MP John Glen and Frank Field MP, they heard that delays in the benefits system and illness were two of the main reasons people turned to foodbanks, while others struggled with the high cost of living in the region even if they were in work.

The Bishop of Salisbury, the Rt Revd Nicholas Holtam, has told a committee of MPs examining hunger in today’s Britain of his experiences in Dorset, Wiltshire and London.

Bishop Nicholas said:

“There are 21 foodbanks in the Diocese They are supported by many churches and Christians. They are a generous way of caring for our neighbours in need.  Our foodbanks tell similar stories about people experiencing long delays waiting for benefits to be assessed. There are also problems for people in work on low pay who cannot make ends meet.

“This is particularly difficult in rural areas where travel costs are high. Illness, unemployment, family breakdown and bad luck all play a part in what is rarely a simple single issue. Increasingly many of the volunteer helping foodbanks are asking questions about justice for those in greatest need.”  

The Bishop provided a series of short case studies from local foodbanks illustrating the needs of their users. He added,  “It is important to remember that people can’t simply turn up to a foodbank and ask for help. They must be referred by the official agencies or another body like a community group or church.

“People ask what this has to do with Christianity. In the story of the Good Samaritan, Jesus makes it clear that we have a duty to help anyone in need, not just people like us. In fact, in that story, it was the Samaritan, who belonged to a despised group, who showed good religious people the meaning of the law.

“The Scriptures also teach us to be generous for our own self-interest. We don’t know when we will need help ourselves – and crisis can hit anyone. When I was the Vicar of St Martin-in-the-Fields, I saw time and again that homelessness and poverty are not single issues. They are usually the product of a combination of some mix of bad luck, family breakdown, unemployment, sickness, disability, mental health and addiction.  With good support most of us can keep going with one or two these but few of us survive intact when three happen.

“In caring for others there is a recognition that ‘there but for the grace of God go you or I’.”

Read Bishop Nicholas’ submission to the Parliamentary Inquiry into Hunger and Food Poverty via this link.

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