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.