THE number of food banks continues to increase across the country.

They meet a growing need and those who run them and donate to them are to be commended.

But the fact that almost 16,500 Gwent people needed to use a food bank during 2013 is not a success story.

It is a scandal.

This is not Victorian Britain, a divided nation of workhouses and palaces.

This is Britain in the 21st century, one of the richest and most advanced nations on earth.

And yet tens of thousand of people on our door steps are using food banks because they cannot afford the feed their families.

There will be those who criticise the whole notion of food banks; who believe there is no such thing as true poverty in Britain.

And there may be people out there who play the system, taking handouts whether they need them or not.

But there are not 16,500 of them in Gwent.

The relentless demonisation of the recipients of benefits in this country in recent years, and some of a host of reforms to the benefits system, have left some people in genuine financial hardship.

The fact that some families in modern Britain rely on food banks should be a badge of shame for this nation - and it should be worn most prominently by those who put political dogma before people.