THE revelation the UK Government is launching a study on whether the dramatic increase in food bank usage in recent years is the result of its benefits policies has been welcomed by a Newport MP.

Newport East's Jessica Morden was speaking after government documents leaked to The Guardian appeared to show plans to investigate reasons for the increase in food bank use - and whether Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) policy is responsible for the trend.

The most recent statistics show 1.3 million emergency food parcels were given out across the UK between April 2017 and March 2018 - up 13 per cent on the year before. This increase is more than twice as much as the increase in the previous 12 months, when the number of food parcels handed out was up six per cent.

Labour MP Ms Morden said: “After years of this Tory government arguing there is no link between their policies and the increased use of food banks, this study is well overdue.

“From speaking with constituents who have had to turn to food banks in ever greater numbers, to the food bank staff who have described the explosion in demand, it is absolutely clear that DWP policy and benefit processing problems are the major causes for people to turn to a food bank.

"I hope this study gets to the reality of government policy and signifies that the government will look again at Universal Credit and pause its rollout - something I argued for in a debate on Universal Credit earlier this month. But until that time, we will continue to see people turning to food banks”.

The leaked document says the research will “identify any areas of DWP policy or operational practice that may have contributed to a rise in demand for food bank services."

According to the document, organisations including the Trussell Trust, which runs food banks across the UK, independent food banks, people using the services and other agencies involved will be involved in the study. It says the study will cost £217,000 and will report back in October 2019.

The DWP has said it is reviewing existing research and "will consider further research" on the subject.

The Trussell Trust runs food banks in Newport, Pontypool, Chepstow, Monmouth, Abergavenny, Blackwood, Ebbw Vale, Caerphilly and Risca.

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