While Treasury ministers have seemed loathe to disclose details in parliament, Scrapbook can reveal that George Osborne finally visited a food bank on 25 October — just eight months after David Cameron and ten months after he was invited to do so by the chief executive of the UK’s largest food bank network.
During his visit to Bethel Food Bank, which helps to distribute up to one tonne of food aid each month, Osborne actually spoke to a user of the service — in marked contrast with David Cameron, who refused to meet any struggling families. If this was an attempt to the neutralise the issue he has failed, however, with a petition on UK hunger from ‘poverty cooking’ write Jack Monroe poised to cross the threshold for online petitions to be debated in parliament.
Trussell Trust boss Chris Mould told Scrapbook:
“We are pleased that George Osborne dropped in to his local foodbank. We encourage all our foodbanks to engage their constituency MPs because foodbanks are a vital part of civil society. It is very important that MPs understand how foodbanks work, and that they meet the people foodbanks help.”
It only took him 308 days.
Asked about taking his own government’s advice and switching energy suppliers on the Today Programme this morning, George Osborne’s response was right there with “I have a breadmaker”:
Humphrys: “Have you changed your energy supplier as the leader of the opposition has?”
Osborne: “I live in Downing Street”
You could almost hear him willing the words back into his mouth.
Having been doing viral toys such as Ask Murdoch and the Liam Fox Business Card Generator since Us vs Th3m was a twinkle in Trinity Mirror’s eye, Scrapbook is returning to the microsite frey with HasGeorgeOsborneBeenToAFoodBankYet.com.
In an interview with Mehdi Hasan last December, Trussell Trust food bank director Chris Mould said:
“My message to George Osborne is: come to our food banks.”
Our new site keeps track of the number of days that Osborne has snubbed this invitation. Let’s just say it’s been a while:
Osborne is having a laugh.
The DWP is refusing to refer desperate benefits claimants to food banks, according to the country’s largest operator. The Trussell Trust has claimed that Iain Duncan Smith’s department has “privately reneged” on an agreement for Jobcentres to refer needy claimants using an agreed procedure — and banned the collection key data on food bank use.
After ignorant attempts by a Tory minister to blame increased food bank use on charities, it has emerged that the DWP have dropped the requirement for staff to record the reason for a food bank referral and to provide claimants with vouchers — meaning that food banks cannot assess need at the other end. Conveniently enough, this also reduces the amount of embarrassing statistical data in circulation on food banks.
These revelation fly in the face of a response from David Cameron in PMQs yesterday, who is apparently under the impression that Jobcentres were still referring people — when they haven’t been since April.
“We have done something that the food bank movement had been asking for for years, but that the Labour Government did not grant because they were worried about the public relations — namely, the ability to say to people in Jobcentre Plus who needed help that they could go to a food bank. The Labour Government might not have wanted to do that because it was bad publicity; we did it because it was the right thing.”
The charity’s executive chairman Chris Mould said:
“We’re delighted that David Cameron understands the importance of enabling Jobcentres to refer people in crisis to foodbanks but we are deeply concerned that some people within DWP are doing their best to block the agreement that makes this possible.”
Naturally, austerity architect George Osborne still hasn’t visited one yet.
Tough reforms announced by George Osborne yesterday promise to drive up food bank queues — but the chancellor has snubbed an invitation to actually visit one.
In an interview with the Huffington Post’s Mehdi Hasan last December, the chief executive of the Trussell Trust, the UK’s largest network of food banks, made the following invitation:
“My message to George Osborne is: come to our food banks.”
While pressure forced David Cameron to face up to the impact of his policies by visiting such a facility, Scrapbook can confirm the chancellor has not taken the Trussell Trust up on their invitation.
Given he is so keen to force the newly unemployed to use them, perhaps he should visit one.
UPDATE: Just don’t mention the £10 gourmet burger …
In addition to driving up queues at food banks, payday lenders such as Wonga also stand to profit from George Osborne’s seven day block on the newly unemployed claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance.
A spokesperson from debt charity StepChange told Scrapbook:
“If people don’t have a redundancy settlement then that seven day period will increase the risk of people taking paypay loans they cannot afford to pay off.”
Doubtless Adrian Beecroft — Tory donor and investor in Wonga – will be thrilled.
UPDATE: Sound the irony klaxon …it’s #WongaWednesday.
With Osborne’s spending review introducing a tough-sounding seven day delay for new benefits claimants, the Spectator’s Isabel Hardman is right about the dangers:
Indeed, when David Cameron finally visited the food bank in his constituency, a desperate newly unemployed mother told Sky News:
“My wages had stopped, so I had to wait for the benefits to kick in. We were desperate. We didn’t have any food. At one point I had a fiver, in my back pocket, to just go and get some food.”
So has the chancellor been to a food bank yet?
On the eve of the Spending Review last night, chancellor George Osborne tweeted a picture of himself eating a burger:
But Scrapbook remembers the last time he went out for fast food:
With George ensconced in the Treasury, things are looking up for disabled drivers.