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2012 National Women's Conference
19 October 2011
Carried as Amended

Conference notes with dismay the resurgence of food banks across the UK.

In September 2011 it was announced that jobcentres in England and Wales will refer people whose benefits have been delayed, or have been refused crisis loans, to charity-run food banks that will give them a food parcel containing basics such as tinned soup, baked beans, meat, fish and pasta.

The food banks will be run by the Trussell Trust, a charity that anticipates running around 130 centres and feeding between 90-100,00 people in the next year, and which predicts that this may rise to up to half a million people by 2015.

Cuts in public services are already having a disproportionate impact on women, as the services they rely on and the services they provide are being targeted for cuts. Women escaping domestic violence may see no alternative other than to seek help from the food banks as benefits are delayed and crisis loans refused.

UNISON members, particularly low paid women members and lone parents (90% of whom are women), may be forced to seek help in this way, as rising food and energy prices, wage freezes and redundancy impact on their ability to support themselves and their families.

Whilst working people, and those made unemployed suffer, bankers bonuses continue to rise. In July 2011 it was reported that payments hit fourteen billion pounds despite the coalition’s pledge to block “unacceptable bonuses”. Conference agrees that this is yet more evidence of the government’s callous disregard for the most vulnerable in society.

Conference therefore calls upon the national women’s committee to :

1)Encourage branch and regional women’s groups to liaise with local community organisations and public sector alliances to support those most in need, and to campaign jointly to raise public awareness of the impact that this government’s policies are having on the most vulnerable in our society, particularly highlighting the return to food banks and soup kitchens;

2)Work with UNISON Welfare “There for You” and via Branch Welfare Officers to ensure that members are aware of the assistance available to members in crisis.