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Medway food bank chief Ian Childs urges people not to be put off helping after Mail on Sunday storm

By Jenni Horn

The man in charge of Medway’s food banks has urged people not to be put off by a national newspaper article which claimed scroungers take advantage.
Ian Childs, project manager at Medway Foodbank, said there are a “handful” of people who abuse the service but the majority of people who turn to them are in desperate need of help.
Food banks provide emergency food parcels to people in need who are referred to their local branch by social services, a doctor or other professionals.
But the Mail on Sunday claimed food banks were beset by “scroungers” who ignore the limit on how many food parcels they can receive, while some people were given them without any checks of their claims of being unable to afford it. A reporter posed as an unemployed father-of-two to obtain food.

Food bank worker Wym Mauritz talks with a client at St Mark's Church, Gillingham, a distribution point

Mr Childs said the number of people who genuinely need food banks vastly outweighs those who abuse the system.
He said: “Yes there are food bank systems out there that are open to abuse but we are very careful.
“On occasions we have become aware of people who have attempted to abuse the system but in the six months I have been here, you can count them on less than one hand.
“We cannot stop helping the thousands of people who are in genuine need, just because of that handful of people.”

The Mail on Sunday story caused controversy

Medway Foodbank helped more than 4,000 people from April 2013 to March 2014 – almost double the number it helped the previous year.
Mr Childs rubbished claims that more people are taking charity handouts just because more food banks exist.
He said: “The provision isn’t what drives demand, it is the demand that drives demand.
“We are a response to a genuine and growing need out there.
“Certain politicians demonstrate a distinct lack of understanding of the needs of people using food banks.

Food ready for distribution at Medway Foodbank in Strood. Stock image.

“The vast majority of people who come to us are doing so because they are in a desperate situation.
“People are very grateful for the help but it does leave a scar.
“They are relieved in the short-term but dismayed at their life position.”

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