Minister backs the food bank appeal

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Work and Pensions Secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, has praised the work of the Arena Church’s food bank project.

The MP visited the Rutland Street church on Friday after being invited there by Erewash MP Jessica Lee.

He listened to volunteers about the help they give to Cotmanhay residents struggling to make ends meet and told them of Government plans to get people off benefits and back to work.

Volunteer Lisa Harrison told Mr Smith: “We offer much more than just food parcels.

“People end up coming here for advice, they want to turn their lives around.

“We sit them down and tell them it won’t be easy but we are here to help.

“People get used to living on money that they are not working for and it takes a lot to break that cycle but we feel we are doing that.

“When young people come in and tell us they’ve found work they are so much happier and feel thay have a purpose.”

Mr Smith told the group that steps are being taken to help people back to work, especially the younger generation.

He said: “We want to get the message out there about what we are trying to do, such as the Youth Contract scheme to get those below the age of 24 into work.

“There are also other opportunities and schemes for those looking to start their own business, so it’s great to see these sort of ideas being set up.”

He suggested that the church contact the Job Centre and with the help of Jessica Lee arrange a jobs fair to show local people what help and support there is on offer.

Mr Smith added: “Schemes and places like this are vital in helping us to get our message out to communities that need the help and start to turn things around.

“For too long now the mindset has been to leave areas with issues of unemployment and drug dependency alone but we have decided it’s time to do something about it.”