No, Iain, benefits ARE behind the rise of food banks – and Germany proves it


Iain Duncan Smith’s feet must be riddled with self-inflicted bullet holes – if only metaphorically.

Today (December 14) he went on the record saying that it was wrong for a cross-party group of MPs to suggest that the rise of food banks was purely to do with benefit-related problems.

Germany had more generous benefits and higher pay – yet more people there used food banks, he said in an interview on the BBC’s Sunday Politics.

He said 1.5 million people a week used food banks in Germany, whereas the Trussell Trust – the UK’s largest food bank provider, has said it fed 913,138 people during the 2013-14 financial year.

“It is tiny in proportion here compared to a place like Germany which has more generous benefits and in which you have a higher level of pay,” said the man this blog describes as RTU (Returned To Unit) or SNLR (Services No Longer Required).

“So just saying it is to do with benefits is quite wrong. What I do say is there are lots of other reasons lots of people go to food banks.”

Oh really?

It seems Iain has been misreading a blog by the London School of Economics, from 2013 – a year and a half ago.

In it, author Stefan Selke does say Germany feeds 1.5 million people via food banks, but does not stipulate whether this is weekly or annually – so the Work and Pensions secretary is already off-message. Was he intentionally misleading viewers? Hard to tell with a man as stupid as him.

Now look at this paragraph from the LSE blog article: “The main growth of foodbanks in Germany began 2005, when Chancellor Gerhard Schröder’s government introduced the ‘Agenda 2010’ of tax cuts, and cuts to pension and unemployment benefits. Around the same time, a new form of unemployment insurance (‘Hartz IV’) was introduced, reducing previous benefit levels and the duration for which they can be received.”

Aren’t these exactly the same reasons people use food banks in the UK – problems caused by benefits?

In both countries, the conditions under which benefits are provided have become stricter; the amounts available have decreased; and new forms of benefit payment have been (or are in the process of being) introduced that reduce entitlement still further. In both countries, taxes have been cut, most probably justifying further cuts to public services (clearly Germany has also been Starving the Beast – a policy with which long-term VP readers should be intimately familiar). Would anybody be surprised to learn that Germany has embraced neoliberalism?

The only difference is that Germany started this process five years earlier.

Unsurprisingly, nobody at BBC News seems to have bothered to do their research on this (it took Yr Obdt Srvt less than five minutes with a search engine) so – yet again – the mass media have let the British people down by failing to do their job properly.

A worse problem is that Iain Duncan Smith has never done his job properly – and clearly wouldn’t know how to.

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  1. Rick B (@TenPercent) December 14, 2014 at 11:40 pm - Reply

    It’s a flat out lie, if you remember IDS was at a conference in Germany on welfare a while back and has been there a lot to ‘study’ their right wing pols ideas, so he well knows he is lying.

    • Mike Sivier December 15, 2014 at 12:16 am - Reply

      Thanks for that, Rick!

  2. alexandraengland December 14, 2014 at 11:56 pm - Reply

    Germany also has more people.

  3. creatorsnotconsumers December 15, 2014 at 12:18 am - Reply

    Curiously Mike, it took me the time it takes to type ‘Germany food bank usage’ in Google to discover the same report by Stefan Selke (ten secs approx) and to uncover the usual deceit. We are grossly under rewarded for our efforts whilst the BBC languishes in undeserved public largesse. Be well.

    • Mike Sivier December 15, 2014 at 12:24 am - Reply

      Those are, indeed, the facts of the matter.

  4. fathomie December 15, 2014 at 12:47 am - Reply

    IDS also seems not to have noticed that due to Germany having Food Banks for longer they have 50% more foodbanks there. Before IDS pats himself on the back too much, let’s not also forget that Germany’s population is larger than ours, that the number of people using foodbanks has tripled in the UK in just three years, and that the reason given for using foodbanks by the vast majority of people is Benefits issues.

    If you want to really depress yourselves go and read the Daily Mails coverage of IDS’s latest pile of steaming doo.

  5. Jeffery Davies December 15, 2014 at 7:54 am - Reply

    Well did you think this person could tell the truth trouble is
    that we are ones on the receiving end of it now its a total pack
    of lies by this creature getting the rest to realise that is hard work
    as you know bbc with support from channels four and five show
    that those on benefits are scroungers like all tories they cant tell
    the truth of it speaking of Germany why didnt they tell all on bbc
    that germany opened a new open cast mine to supply ten new
    power stations it seems the Germans have no quarrels with their

  6. thelovelywibblywobblyoldlady December 15, 2014 at 9:08 am - Reply

    SNLR ….. Love it!

  7. Jonathan Wilson December 15, 2014 at 9:12 am - Reply

    I’m going on memory here (which is often a bit flaky, lol) but the article also interviewed someone from a wonk tank… I think, but can not be sure and can’t be arsed to check, it was the center for social studies who said something along the lines of “IDS didn’t want to x y z but had to” Errrm correct em if I’m incorrect but didn’t IDS set up the CfSS to give credence for his policies, if so the interviewer was talking to the mouthpiece of IDS in reference to IDS policies as an “independent think tank.” Talk about biased.

    • Mike Sivier December 15, 2014 at 9:31 am - Reply

      Centre for Social Justice.
      Yes indeed.

  8. arthurstreeb December 15, 2014 at 9:33 am - Reply

    IDS appeared on BBC North West News recently, and made the usual arse of himself Appearing via video link, he proceeded to drone on, and on, and…..quite normal for him, as you well know. However, the lady trying to interview him seemed to get a ‘bit’ ticked off with his droning, and after many attempts to get a word in edgewise, she gave up, and turned her back on him before Smith had finished. The following Sunday morning, in the regional section of the Andrew Neil prog., were the awful Esther Mcvey (?), plus Hazel Blears. Mcvey has obviously been tutored by Smith ‘cos she-would-not-shut-her-effin-mouth! The sound of her loud, hectoring voice interupting Blears was truly a terrible Horrible!

    • fathomie December 15, 2014 at 11:27 am - Reply

      Sadly Mcvey is one of our local MP’s. A nasty piece of work, she was involved in non stop dirt shovelling as a prospective councillor, and stooped to new lows in order to get herself noticed by Central Office. In a slice of delicious irony, the local paper that supported her shenanigans went bust in, oh, 2011.

  9. Tony Dean December 15, 2014 at 10:55 am - Reply

    What IDS forgot to mention is that German food banks are funded by government using a hypothecated percentage of income tax.

  10. Jane Jacques December 15, 2014 at 3:20 pm - Reply

    On Sunday Politics yesterday IDS insisted his Universal Credit programme had been signed off (yes I know not stricltly about the post). Andew Neill insisted it hadn’t been but oh yes it had! Polly Toynbee on the panel at the end referred to his brass necking it. Andrew Neill found the correct committee quote at end of prog where there has only been partial sign off and ongoing review. Hmm!!

    • krazyklaws December 17, 2014 at 11:32 pm - Reply

      Universall Credit HAS NOT been signed off by the Treasury, unlikely to ever be before the summer of 2015.
      Worse news for IDS, the Major Projects Authority rate Universal Credit Amber/Red meaning its a high risk of failure.

      Check it out on the Guardian website.

  11. Alistair Ralph Lazenby December 15, 2014 at 4:42 pm - Reply


  12. Alistair Ralph Lazenby December 15, 2014 at 5:02 pm - Reply

    FOOD BANKS IS IT IN THE COLLINS / OXFORD BOOK english DICTIONARY, I MEAN THESE WORD’S ARE AN english saying given to us by the english. not WELSH,SCOTTISH OR IRISH. *UCKING english, Plain *ucking english, i wonder are they proud they the english come second in The popular list of NATIONS we love to hate. no prize’s for first country . but they KICKED THE RED COATS OUT. HAHAAAAAAA

  13. Col December 15, 2014 at 8:03 pm - Reply

    The reason for the increase in foodbanks is that the government transferred responsibility for ‘Crisis Loans’ (loans for people on benefits) from DWP to local authorities, but transferred less funding than was currently being provided. Local authorities therefore are underfunded to meet the actual level of need and refer people in crisis to foodbanks for assistance.

    • Mike Sivier December 15, 2014 at 10:41 pm - Reply

      Oh, is that the reason?
      So it’s nothing to do with any of the other reasons mentioned in multiple VP articles over the past few years?

      • Col December 17, 2014 at 12:22 am - Reply

        My apologies, it was not my intention to upset your tender sensibilities, but merely to express my opinion and add to the debate (which I mistakenly understood to be a main function of this site).

        • Mike Sivier December 17, 2014 at 12:36 am - Reply

          The trouble was that you were saying there was only one reason; there isn’t.
          My sensibilities aren’t tender at all, I promise you, but I do feel duty-bound to point out when commenters could benefit from a little extra research or are in danger of misleading other readers.

  14. aturtle05 December 15, 2014 at 9:59 pm - Reply

    Could someone please tell me what planet this idiot is from, oh and point him and the rest of the Conservative party to where they left their spaceship?

  15. I'm a JSA claimant (@imajsaclaimant) December 15, 2014 at 10:58 pm - Reply

    I read this article from Spiegel online and it made me wonder if German food banks can be directly compared to the British equivalent. Perhaps, as you suggest in your post, they could be at the beginning, but now they seem to have diversified… which leads me to wonder if the 1.5 million a week figure is accurate.

    The article includes this sentence, “In the last five years, the number of people who receive meals for free or in return for a small contribution has approximately doubled to about 1.5 million.” Perhaps the number is just coincidence in that it is used to describe a related activity, but even if that is the case the article paints a very different picture than the food banks we have spread around the UK, which makes me suspicious/curious.

  16. Mykill Smite December 16, 2014 at 10:33 am - Reply

    The man’s competence is on the same level as his capacity for basic human decency.

  17. Thindi December 16, 2014 at 10:47 am - Reply

    Actually we finally have the means to solve most problems we face today, to feed, clothe and house each and every single human being on this planet, beyond the standards of even the currently wealthiest people, while saving the environment. All that without the use of money, credit, barter, or any kind of servitude. A better world IS possible:
    Let’s make everything FREE!
    A short video explaining the idea:
    In-depths documentary about the problems and the solution:
    Detailed free ebook:

    And to quote Michael Green:
    What many seem to be overlooking is a global phenomenon known as
    technological unemployment, and whether people want to bury their heads
    in the sand, it’s happening, irrespective of gender. Resource Based Economy is the way to deal with these issues.
    Here’s one to watch:
    Humans Need Not Apply (15mins)
    And another,
    James Burke Connects the Future (13 mins)
    Will Work for Free
    and one more,
    Burger Robot Will Revolutionize Fast Food – August 12, 2014 (33 seconds)
    Ah, go on, one last piece, David Geoffrey Lucas:
    “3d printing is but a stepping stone towards the holy grail of additive manufacturing – molecular engineering. This
    is the technology showcased in ‘Star trek – the next generation’ as the
    replicator, and which would wipe out the monetary/market economic system
    once democratised across the population . Here’s the institute leading
    the research:

    • Mike Sivier December 16, 2014 at 11:18 am - Reply

      What do readers think of this?

      • Michele Witchy Eve December 18, 2014 at 6:15 pm - Reply

        The predictions re: employment and technology are correct. Can’t speak for the solutions – basic human nature will be the biggest issue to overcome.

      • Michael Rbe Green December 19, 2014 at 12:20 pm - Reply

        Hi Michele. Thanks for commenting in the way you did about technology and unemployment. This video is very clear, and the shortest i’ve seen in a while, about what is happening and what is coming. Unfortunately many are in denial about it, or like many who read the mainstream press and/or watch the television, tend to blame “immigrants”, those who are already unemployed or have health problems and are in receipt of benefits.

        As for the “basic human nature”, Christine has already shared a really good article with links to scientific studies, but the following is from a highly respected man working in the field of addictions and stress.

        “In a society which is predicated on competition and really, very often, the ruthless exploitation of one human being by another, the profiteering off of other people’s problems and very often the creation of problems for the purpose of profiteering, the ruling ideology will very often justify that behavior by appeals to some fundamental and unalterable human nature. So the myth in our society is that people are competitive by nature and that they are individualistic and that they’re selfish. The real reality is quite the opposite. We have certain human needs. The only way that you can talk about human nature concretely is by recognizing that there are certain human needs. We have a human need for companionship and for close contact, to be loved, to be attached to, to be accepted, to be seen, to be received for who we are. If those needs are met, we develop into people who are compassionate and cooperative and who have empathy for other people. So the opposite, that we often see in our society, is in fact, a distortion of human nature precisely because so few people have their needs met. So, yes, you can talk about human nature but only in the sense of basic human needs that are instinctively evoked or I should say certain human needs that lead to certain traits if they are met and a different set of traits if they are denied.”~Gabor Maté

        Robert Sapolsky from Stanford University is another who does much work in the field of “Human Behaviour” as does criminologist at Harvard, James Gilligan.

        There is a book written by Stanley Milgram, “Obedience To Authority”, that highlights just how badly one human being will treat another, because “someone in authority” has told them to do so. It’s the “just doing my job” mentality.

        As Mike has said that Christine and I were “off topic” in our posts, though i feel we are sharing relevant information about the causes and the solutions, if you would like to connect with me on Facebook or email i can share a lot more information about many of the issues facing us as a species.

  18. Michael Rbe Green December 16, 2014 at 7:50 pm - Reply

    Hi Christine, you wrote very well about the problems that are facing us ALL, with plenty of information regarding solutions for people to check. Until i began to question my behaviours, “beliefs” etc., and how they are formed, i was very ignorant about many things. I certainly had no knowledge of fractional reserve banking, planned obsolescence, technological unemployment or structural violence. I was however able to see the effects of it all round me. One of many things i hear people say when this new approach to societal management is that if it’s not capitalism it has to be socialism or communism. And where does that “belief” come from? Being “educated” by the “capitalist” mentality. What many don’t, or can’t, understand that it’s not capitalism that has provided us with what we have now, but human ingenuity, scientific experimentation, testing (and failing) ideas to see if they work. Scientific method is not capitalist, communist, socialist or any other ideology. “For every system to work, it must be experimented upon, unfortunately, a moneyless modern society has never been given the chance. A crapitalist competition for profit society has been experimented upon, for centuries, and it keeps failing, over and over, it has got to be the longest failing experiment in history. Its like a drug that hasnt passed medical test but we keep taking it anyway, because we were told it works.” And for those who might suggest that people don’t research from the “other” side, here are a couple of documentaries from Jamie Johnson, heir to the Johnson & Johnson fortune, who can see the widening disparity of wealth in the USA, which can never be solved by the type of thinking that causes it. and And further to the links you cited, here are some more highlighting the work in 3D printing as far as the medical world is concerned, and how much improved computers are becoming and their capabilities,

    • Mike Sivier December 17, 2014 at 12:05 am - Reply

      This is all very interesting but I fear you have both strayed off-topic. Perhaps one or both of you would like to write a guest blog about these issues?

      • Michael Rbe Green December 17, 2014 at 12:42 pm - Reply

        Hi and thanks for your reply Mike. i can’t speak for Christine, but whilst it might appear that we have, “strayed off topic”, what Resource Based Economy involves, among many things, is a train of thought based on “whole system thinking” rather than single issue; looking at the root cause of problems/challenges and solving them as a whole rather than individual symptoms. I certainly appreciate your offer to write a blog, but i am, as yet, not qualified enough in any of the specific areas that will be utilised in moving us to this new concept for societal and resource management, and certainly i am not eloquent enough to write something that would interest the “majority” who cannot as yet see beyond our current system or get them to question the “beliefs and values” we have all been taught.

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