Food bank charity told to stop criticising benefit system or face shut-down – by the government

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What would you do in that situation?

It seems that food bank charity The Trussell Trust has been making too many waves around the Conservative-led Coalition government’s policies regarding benefits, social security and welfare.

Readers may recall how the charity warned that Coalition policies had created a need for a huge expansion in the number of food banks across the UK. The Tories countered this by accusing the trust of “misleading and emotionally manipulative publicity-seeking”, and also of “aggressively marketing [its] services”.

After this failed to make a dent in public opinion, the Daily Mail tried to discredit the trust by claiming it was handing out food parcels without checking whether the people claiming them were bona fide.

But it turned out that the paper’s claim of “inadequate checks on who claims the vouchers, after a reporter obtained three days’ worth of food simply by telling staff at a Citizens Advice Bureau – without any proof – that he was unemployed” was not true. The reporter in fact committed fraud by telling a string of lies in order to falsely claim his food parcel in a flagrant abuse of the system.

The public response was immediate – donations to the Trussell Trust’s fundraising appeal shot through the roof.

Now the government has tried a different tack: blackmail. Instead of trying to justify the government’s position or undermine that taken by the trust in public, it has been revealed that, recently, “someone in power” told trust bosses that the government “might try to shut you down” if the trust continued to cause it embarrassment.

This detail was revealed while Trussell Trust chairman Chris Mould was giving evidence to the Panel on the Independence of the Voluntary Sector this week.

The Trussell Trust is in a fairly robust position with regard to government interference; a 2005 decision by the charity’s trustees to avoid seeking government funding means it is in a better position to resist pressure.

But the trust has to consider the worst-case scenario. If the government did manage to shut it down, hundreds of thousands of people would starve.

That is the real threat posed by the Conservative-led government. Shutting down the Trussell Trust won’t hurt anybody who runs the charity or volunteers for it.

But it could kill food bank users across the country.

It is exactly the kind of covert, backstabbing move we have come to expect from the likes of Iain Duncan Smith.

Oh, come on! You knew RTU (it means Returned To Unit and is our tribute to his Army career) would figure in this article somewhere.

According to Mr Mould, he received a phone call from “someone” in the office of the Secretary-in-a-State about Work and Pensions, back in 2011. He said it was “basically to tell me that the boss was very angry with us because we were publicising the concerns we have over the rising number of people who were struggling as a consequence of delays and inefficiences in the benefits system”.

Unfortunately – for sly abusers like Duncan Smith – the kind of threats recorded above are really only useful when they are kept secret. The idea is always to present the victim with a double-bind – in this case, not only would food bank users suffer, but the Trussell Trust would get the blame for having withdrawn the service (whether voluntarily or not).

Now that we all know the government itself is putting the screws on – and is doing so in retaliation against the Trussell Trust’s entirely legitimate attempts to raise awareness of government policies’ disastrous effects – it would be electoral suicide.

That being said, watch Iain Duncan Smith on Question Time today.

He’s probably stupid enough to go through with it anyway.

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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36 thoughts on “Food bank charity told to stop criticising benefit system or face shut-down – by the government

  1. Pingback: Food bank charity told to stop criticising benefit system or face shut-down – by the government | kittysjones

  2. Stephen Bee

    Publish and be Damned..Fight with all guns blazing so EVERYONE knows exactly what this government is capable of..Morality is on the charity’s side..the public will surely accept the charity’s word over the government’s. And it exposes the Tories as the worst kind of Criminal Bullies…EVER! Do ANYTHING that will embarrass them totally..But fight, fight, fight!

  3. Tara White

    Remembering how the Trussell Trust actually rose to such prominence and when. Or maybe looking back is a better way of putting it. So them challenging the government is a bit unusual but can only be taken so far? They enabled by this government who gave them a kind of extended remit with referrals from job centres before current policies were put in place. That’s like putting up tents before a hurricane, rather than evacuating to keep people safe. Now they are feeding vast numbers inadequately.

    Before sanctions, before the work programme, before the caps, the cuts, etc.,etc.,etc., and with a three times a year proviso. Forward planning, what ho…… Bit like something from Uncle Joe, but we’re not supposed to say that, cos they wear the wrong colour ties. It’s utter madness, and no one will hold the government to any real accountability, because they just laugh in the face of the entire nation.

  4. Pingback: Food bank charity told to stop criticising bene...

  5. beastrabban

    Reblogged this on Beastrabban’s Weblog and commented:
    Mike here reports how the head of the Trussell Trust, Chris Mould, received a phone call from IDS’ offices stating that their boss was extremely annoyed at the way the Trust was highlighting the massive increase in poverty and the people using them. It was a veiled threat, from a government, whose response to criticism really is to lie and then try to silence the opposition. Remember a few weeks ago when someone from the government’s new press watchdog said the wanted to see the Guardian blackballed because of its bias? This is the creeping face of government totalitarianism. We haven’t yet got to the point of having a ‘Ministry of Truth’, but that may well come with Gove’s educational reforms and his insistence of teaching proper history, without any of the awkward points raised by lefties.

    1. Mike Sivier

      The phone call was in 2011 but the threat to shut down the Trussell Trust was this year.
      That doesn’t seem to have been made clear in the article, does it? Think I’ll have to ensure it is.

  6. Smiling Carcass

    Reblogged this on SMILING CARCASS'S TWO-PENNETH and commented:
    I agree with most of what Mike says in this blogpost- except I don’t think Iain Duncan Smith is stupid at all.

    Let’s look at the abysmal excuse for a Social Security system he’s creating; what better way to see that the benefits bill is reduced than to stop legitimate benefits being paid because of a crippled system!

    No, don’t be fooled by thinking he’s stupid; callous, yes; uncaring, yes. But stopping benefits being paid by introducing an inefficient, paralysed system is a master stroke.

    1. Mike Sivier

      Well, there’s all kinds of stupid. The impression I get from the current lot of Tories is that they are so arrogant they think they can do anything and get away with it.
      Whether they are right has yet to be proved.

      1. Ulysses

        I really do foresee a new set of Nuremberg style trials for this lot, and a few of the previous New Labour politicians in a couple of decades hence…

      2. amnesiaclinic

        I think you are right. There is no doubt the politicians are on the wrong side of history which is why they are forcing it through so quickly and shutting all protest down.
        I think the only way forward is to take things into our own hands through communities which don’t just have food banks but encourage and provide the means for people to grow their own food and cook it and share it. A food bank provides tinned and packeted food for 5 days or so 3 times a year. Growing food provides fresh food all the year around, exercise, jobs and with the new hydroponic techniques can provide food for others and restaurants, schools etc.
        Get ourselves self sufficient in every way!

      3. Ulysses

        Mrs Ulysses was very cynical when i said this yesterday, but i pointed out, how many leaders of regimes in history thought they could abuse their citizens rights with impunity at the time, and 20 or 30 years later end up dangling from a rope?

        Look at the Police who policed Hillsborough, and i think there was a groundswell on social media to look again at The Miners Strike?
        Look at the Policing of Barton Moss, only a few month ago, there are protesters camped outside GMP headquarters as i type, and Steve Spy (Teagate) his doing his own little bit with his pig mask and GiMP Cuntstable 666 costume.

        Look at George Galloway and George Monbiot’s efforts in calling Tony Blair account.

        It might seem an uphill battle, but as you (I hope ) rightly point out, these people are on the wrong side of history.

        Oh, and grow your own? We have this year turned over the lawn and have started to ready the soil for that purpose… The seedlings are coming on a treat!
        Any excess produce, especially the sweet corn where i went a little overboard on, we will gladly hand out to the neighbors 😉

        I agree wholeheartedly, we really need to take back our own society from these corporate greedy scum

  7. Jenny Hambidge

    On what grounds could Gov’t close Trussell trust down? On the grounds that it is not a -political and neutral and violates its charitable status? On that basis Oxfam, Red Cross and various Disability Charities which campaign and are critical of the Government, or draw attention to increasing poverty, would also be in the firing line as well. We’ll see about that.

    1. HomerJS

      Oxfam are already in the firing line and a complaint by a Tory MP has gone to the Charity Commission.

  8. denise clendinning

    They’re using every trick in the book to justify themselves. Let me just say this: IT WONT WORK – there are people out there that do not have enough food so in my book that is against human rights. People do have rights and the Trussell Trust has every right to let the public know what this government is putting the poor through, and should be grateful that they are out there helping because, as I see it, over the last four years this shambles of a government has done sod all and has just made things much worse and have been in denial. Roll on 2015.

  9. Pingback: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2014/06/12/food-bank-charity-told-to-stop-criticising-benefit-system-or-face-shut-down-by-the-government/ | onemanpartyanimal

    1. Vic Curtis

      Good point, but is publishing the continually rising numbers needing to use foodbanks strictly a criticism of the Government (implicitly it is, and everyone will see it as that but in the terms of the gagging law, not sure it is)

  10. Nick

    its not possible to shut a food bank down unless it was giving away dangerous food stuff which it isn’t

    The EU would take action and prosecute the government

    the threat thou is valid and proves that if we ever left the EU this government could do as they please with all the people and this country would quickly become like Saudi Arabia and if you spoke out you’d get killed in one way or another

  11. Thomas M

    If the government starts shutting down food banks, it’ll end up with a lot more unrest. Those food banks are what is stopping people from having little or nothing to lose.

  12. thelovelywibblywobblyoldlady

    I wonder if IDS or “someone from his office” will shut me down, or otherwise dispose of me, when they see what I’ve got to say about the government using self employment to massage the unemployment figures 😉

  13. Pingback: Panellists hijack Question Time to attack Iain Duncan Smith | Vox Political

  14. John

    I think most of you are missing an essential point: WHY are there food banks?
    They are part and parcel of government policy to cut welfare spending so that millionaires may enjoy tax cuts. It is a matter of choice and government chooses the interests of their wealthy pals over the interests of large numbers of poor people in our society. It really is that simple. The food bank operations are designed to infiltrate religion into the lives of ordinary people – which government are happy to see – and they blunt potential criticism of the government’s deliberately cack-handed welfare reforms. Both parties involved win: government gets to cut welfare and the churches get to proselytise more potential converts/consumers of their “product”.
    Instead of worrying about the possibility of government closing down food banks (how they can do this is not clear) perhaps we should be demanding that the food banks close themselves down and demand that central government make changes such that everyone in the world’s sixth richest country has sufficient income to be able to afford adequately to feed, clothe and house themselves – or is that just too radical?

    1. Mike Sivier

      Sure, but you’ve got those steps in the wrong order.
      The central government changes that allow people enough income have to happen before food banks can be shut down.
      That’s not going to happen under the current government or any Conservative-led administration of the future (and that includes any government that has members of UKIP).

      1. Ulysses

        I get Johns point, the mass civil unrest caused by his suggestion could possibly force a paradigm shift…

        Your way, Mike, is the gentleman’s way, unfortunately, this cabinets behavior is far from gentlemanly 😀

      2. John

        Mike: you are right, which is why we should all be voting for a Green government next year, if need be in coalition with Labour. All of the present political leadership has engineered a situation where religious organisations are being allowed to take over more and more aspects of our lives. This is no mistake. Gove and others in government knew all about Operation Trojan Horse at least 4 years ago – and they chose to do nothing about it. Why? Because they tacitly approved of what was happening. Fascists and anti-democrats like Ian Duncan Smith and all his similarly-minded pals in government are more than happy to see the British welfare state being undermined, so that the situation in Britain can be “restored” back to a pre-1945 era.
        Let’s start getting religion out of the classroom and out of the GB welfare system.

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