As yet another report — this time from Oxfam, Church Action on Poverty and the Trussell Trust — links changes to the welfare system to an increase in food bank use, the government trots out its usual line:
“It’s simply not possible to draw conclusions from these unverified figures from disparate sources.”
Perhaps its worth reflecting on DWP’s own attitude to the truth. Giving evidence to a Scottish Parliament committee on food banks recently, department director Neil Couling questioned the motivations of the UK’s biggest supplier of emergency food aid by implying that a motivation for their growth was Christian “evangelism” and that the food banks were merely an “evangelical device”:
“For the Trussell Trust, food banks started as an evangelical device to get religious groups in touch with their local communities. As far as I know, the Government has no policy on evangelism.”
The comment elicited a furious response from the Trussell Trust chair, who wrote to Couling last month:
“Please provide me immediately with the evidence you have to support this assertion. You are directly challenging the integrity of a registered charity and its trustees both past and present. If you are not able to provide evidence to support this assertion please write immediately to the Scottish Parliament Welfare Reform Committee to withdraw the statement.”
This smear comes from a department whose secretary of state has claimed that problems of poverty have a “spiritual base”.