A discussion evening on the subject of poverty was organised by West Wolds Branch Labour Party at Pocklington Arts Centre.
Guest speakers with first-hand experience of how poverty is affecting the lives of people in Pocklington and Driffield gave talks on what their organisations do to help.
They were Debs England of the People’s Pantry in Pocklington, Angela Train from the Driffield and Wolds Food Bank, and Yvonne Kurvits from Citizens Advice.
Members heard from Debs England about a steep rise in the use of food banks across the country. For instance the Trussell Trust issued 1.6 million emergency food parcels to people in crisis between April 2018 and March 2019, marking a 73% increase in five years.
7,972 were handed out in the East Riding, 31% of these going to children.
Debs emphasised that the People’s Pantry welcomes anyone who is struggling – not just those on benefits – as low wages, insecure job contracts and rising housing costs affect people in work too.
Angela Train explained how the Driffield and Wolds Food Bank provided more than 11,000 kilos of food to families in need and fed approximately 1500 people with over 13,000 meals between June 2017 and June 2018.
They also provided toys for children at Christmas. The need has grown even further over the last year.
Angela explained that summoning the courage to walk in and ask for help is one of the greatest challenges for users, yet they are often faced with desperate situations and decisions, such as whether to turn on the heating or buy food.
Yvonne Kurvits described a range of poverty-related issues facing people attending local Citizens Advice sessions and identified Universal Credit as the most common cause of distress.
A Labour Party spokesman said: “The speakers were thanked for their contributions and a lively discussion followed, during which Labour Party members exchanged views about the impact of austerity policies over the last decade on rising levels of poverty.
“Concerns were expressed that the cuts have taken away some vital support services and driven more people towards food banks and other voluntary agencies.
“It was agreed that individuals can and do make a difference by volunteering and donating, but members also agreed on the need to challenge attitudes that tolerate poverty and inequality and policies that fail to address them.
“As Nelson Mandela said: ‘Poverty is not an accident. Like slavery and apartheid it is man-made and can be removed by the actions of human beings.’”