David J. Farley of Plympton, Plymouth, United Kingdom

David J. Farley of Plympton, Plymouth, United Kingdom

Friday, April 15, 2016

Food Bank use at record levels, says Trussell Trust charity

Food bank use remains at record levels, with more than 1.1 million units of emergency supplies given out by a leading charity in the last year, figures have revealed. The Trussell Trust said there was a 2% increase in three-day supplies provided to people from its network of 424 food banks in the 2015/16 financial year. More than 415,000 went to children, while on average people were referred to food banks twice in the past year.

Almost half of food banks said there had been an increase in the number of people needing emergency supplies because of benefit sanctions, while other problems included low wages, high living costs or insecure work contracts.

The trust said a million emergency food supplies a year must not become the "new normal". Trust chief executive David McAuley said: "Today's figures on national food bank use prove that the numbers of people hitting a crisis where they cannot afford to buy food are still far too high. "One million three-day food supplies given out by our food banks every year is one million too many. "Reducing UK hunger will require a collective effort from the voluntary sector, Government, businesses and the public, and the Trussell Trust is keen to work with all these groups to find solutions that stop so many people needing food banks in future."

The report said there was a clear link between food bank use and areas of high deprivation. More than 40,000 volunteers helped at food banks in the past year and the public donated over 10,500 tonnes of food. Most of the trust's food banks also offer legal and welfare advice, housing support and clothes. The trust said its figures do not reveal the full scale of food poverty in the UK because other groups also offer food aid.

A Government spokesman said: "Reasons for foodbank use are complex so it is misleading to link them to any one thing. "This Government is determined to move to a higher-wage society, introducing the new National Living Wage that will benefit over one million workers directly this year, and we're also spending £80 billion on working-age benefits to ensure a strong safety net for those who need it most. "The vast majority of benefits are processed on time and the number of sanctions have actually gone down."

Shadow environment, food and rural affairs secretary Kerry McCarthy said: "It is a national scandal that food bank usage is continuing to rise. "Food banks have become a truly shameful symbol of a Tory Government that is failing to stand up for ordinary people. While those at the top are given tax breaks, others are struggling to get by. "Emergency food aid should remain just that - food banks can never be allowed to become a permanent feature of British society."

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: "Following hard on the heels of the billions stashed abroad by the rich and powerful we have today's heart-rending report from the Trussell Trust that hundreds of thousands of our fellow-citizens, including children, are struggling, one step away from starvation, in the fifth richest economy in the world. "If anything demonstrated the fierce and burning inequality engulfing our country, it is the repugnant contrast between a rich elite who can enjoy tax-light arrangements for the cash they have squirrelled away in the British Virgin Islands with the tales of daily despair emanating from the trust's 424 foodbanks."

Dr Eilidh Whiteford, the SNP's spokeswoman for Social Justice and Welfare, said: "That there is already an existing and desperate need for foodbanks in Scotland and across the UK is a complete disgrace but these figures show that foodbank use is actually increasing which shows just how badly the Tories have got it wrong."

Rachael Orr, Oxfam's head of UK programme said: "It's worrying that the number of food parcels given out by the Trussell Trust has risen yet again, topping a million for the second year in a row."

Article courtesy of the Press Association.

Monday, April 04, 2016

Major Drop In Cannabis Arrests is 'Decriminalisation By Stealth'

Figures showing arrests for cannabis possession in England and Wales have almost halved have divided police and pro-cannabis campaigners who say they reflect two very different realities. Police and the Police Federation distanced themselves from suggestions that the figures showed the force’s stance on cannabis crime had softened, and suggested the decrease was more a reflection of staffing cuts and directives to focus on more serious offences. Cannabis campaigners, however, said the figures were further evidence that the “war on drugs” is failing and that “decriminalisation is occurring by stealth”.


Arrests for cannabis possession in England and Wales have almost halved since 2010 Figures published by the BBC on Monday revealed that arrests for cannabis had dropped 46%; cautions had fallen by 48% and the number of people charged had fallen by 33%. The statistics, released under the Freedom of Information Act, are in contrast to Crime Survey data which suggested that cannabis use remained roughly the same from 2010-2015. The statistics - from 32 of 43 police forces - showed arrests for cannabis possession fell from 35,367 to 19,115; cautions for possession fell from 9,633 to 5,036 and people charged with possession dropped from 15,366 to 10,220. Arrests for possession with intent to supply remained about the same - 4,934 in 2010 and 5,012 in 2015. Last July Durham Police said it would no longer target or investigate cannabis users, or those growing the class-B drug for their own use, which Chief Constable Mike Barton told the BBC had “freed up our staff to deal with things that are more important”. Barton told the Huffington Post UK that the figures “are probably a reflection of forces tackling emerging issues such as child sexual exploitation and cybercrime, rather a more liberal approach to law enforcement in general”. He reiterated that Durham Police are not going soft on cannabis crime, saying: “This is about intelligence gathering and deploying a smaller police force to that which is harming the communities, a student smoking a spliff in their bedroom is illegal but I would not expect my staff to get a search warrant to try and arrest them.”


Durham Police Chief Constable Mike Barton said he has “always made it clear that I would welcome a grown up debate on current drugs laws”, however, in the meantime his officers will continue to enforce the law, “especially targeting dealers”. He added: “The debate needs to be between the public and politicians, assisted by the press. “My contribution to the debate is as a tough crime fighter with a legacy of law enforcement. “I’ve spent 36 years targeting drug dealers, I’m proud of what my colleagues have done, some officers displaying immense courage, but drugs are now cheaper, purer and more prevalent that when I joined the police in 1980. My conclusion is that we need to consider change.”

Steve White, chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, said: “It would be dangerous for anyone to look at the drop in arrest numbers and conclude there is less crime, or indeed infer there is a change in attitude towards particular crimes.” White said “cuts” to police numbers were to blame, although he admitted it “is hard to be specific about the exact reasons why arrest figures for cannabis possession are lower”. However, he added: “It would be fair to suggest that a lack of police resources and a resulting need to place focus in difference areas may well have contributed to this change. “The cuts have meant that forces need to make hard decisions about where resources are being spent, and as a result different forces are focusing on different crimes, dependent on their communities, which could account for some of the differences.”

Transform senior policy analyst Steve Rolles welcomed the figures saying a drop in arrests is “good news whatever the reason” as criminalising thousands of young people is “expensive and completely counterproductive”. Steve White said "It would be dangerous for anyone to look at the drop in arrest numbers and conclude there is less crime, or indeed infer there is a change in attitude towards particular crimes” Rolles added that it was “striking” that cannabis use had fallen at a time when enforcement had decreased in intensity. He said: “In direct contrast to the Government’s tough on drugs rhetoric, its clear that levels of use have little or nothing to do with policing tactics, so why do we continue to criminalise and punish, especially when we have such positive evidence from countries that take a different approach? “Its time to end the war on drug users altogether and deal with drugs as a public health issue to be responsibly managed.”

Lee Harris, London Mayoral candidate for the Cannabis is Safer Than Alcohol party told The Independent the drop in arrests is reflective of a “bigger trend around the world as governments at national and regional levels are developing rational, evidence based policies as alternatives to criminalising cannabis consumers”. Harris continued: “Not only does this help to protect consumers, it puts valuable tax receipts back into supporting public services. Here in the UK and in London decriminalisation is occurring by stealth.” “This still leaves the black market and organised crime as the sole provider. This is unacceptable given the potential health risks and the impact on communities. Surely now we must accept the need to regulate and tax cannabis consumption in the public interest.”

Article with courtesy of Steven Hopkins, News Reporter of The Huffington Post (UK)