Food banks

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.

  1. The Tory MP for the Vale of Glamorgan, Alun Cairns, responding to a steep increase in foodbank sage locally said: “it is sad to hear that so many people are needing to use the foodbank. This will be for a variety of reasons; inability to manage money and to budget, addiction to alcohol or substance misuse, bullying at home, neglect by the benefit recipient and a range of other reasons. This is why I support the Foodbank initiative to prevent many innocent people being penalised”.

  2. Carolyn Westlake says:

    It is not correct to say DWP stopped referring people to Foodbank in April. I am a volunteer in Hertford Foodbank and we have plenty of people sent from the Job Centre.

  3. The use of food banks in the UK is an interesting contrast to the use of food stamps in the US. In the US there is a formalised system whereby if you fall below a certain level of income you are able to draw down assistance from the government for providing food for your family and yourself. In the UK the system is far more less formalised, food banks are operated on a much more charitable model, but with the element that the social security system is allowing or denying people access to them. However, here’s the really big difference; President Obama has poured untold billions of dollars into the welfare system in the US, and has poured even more billions, nay trillions, into the financial system, and the result is that an estimated 15% of the whole American population now depend upon the food stamp system. Yep, in America, the richest country in the world, that has followed a relatively (by their standards anyway) centre-leftist policy, now has to give hand-outs to 15% of its population just to stop them from starving to death. 15%. Roughly one in seven of the whole population of the US needs government help just to stop themselves starving to death. What was it Ben Bradshaw said a couple of months ago on Any Questions? We ought to be following the American example of ‘stimulating the economy’ because the American economy was ‘motoring ahead’. Jeez. I guess he’s hoping that the UK economy gets to the point that 15% of the UK population are using food banks as well.

  4. Whilst the DWP have removed the reason for a referral to a food bank from their ‘voucher’, in West Bromwich (Sandwell) we are still receiving referrals. Like other food banks we keeps statistics of the reasons for all referrals. Any referrals from JC+ now go under the heading of ‘benefit issues’. We will continue to publish the stats on a monthly basis and look forward to any response from JC+

    The %age of referrals we received on a monthly basis for benefit related problems has been between 48-52% of the total received. Categories used are, benefit delays, benefit changes, benefit sanctions and now due to the action of DWP ‘benefit issues’. It will be interesting to see how the DWP spin this!

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