UK’s biggest food bank operator rejects plan to host DWP spies

Molly Hodson of the Trussell Trust: “We have no plans to place DWP job advisers in Trussell Trust food banks.”

Food banks are not to become part of the benefit system after the UK’s largest food bank operator – the Trussell Trust – rejected Iain Duncan Smith’s scheme to place DWP advisers at its facilities.

The Gentleman Ranker’s comment sparked a wave of protest – not least on This Blog, where commenters said DWP staff would say sick or disabled benefit claimants visiting food banks were clearly fit for work if they could make it over the threshold.

Claimants of Jobseekers’ Allowance, commenters argued, would be told they were not actively seeking work and would have their benefit sanctioned out from under them, just because they tried to fend off starvation.

Well, it’s not going to be that easy.

And anyway, setting up spies in food banks is not the answer to the UK’s benefit problems.

The answer – as This Blog has already stated – is to work on eliminating the need for food banks altogether by ensuring that everybody has enough to satisfy their nutritional needs…

… not by trying to scare them away and force them to starve.

The UK’s biggest network of food banks has said it will definitely not allow Jobcentre advisors in its food banks.

The Trussell Trust has written to Third Force News to clarify its position following news stories that revealed the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) would like to place benefits staff in food banks.

The trust, which runs over 420 food banks across the UK, said it is not “actively considering” placing DWP staff in its food banks.

Molly Hodson, head of media and external affairs at the Trussell Trust, told TFN: “No Trussell Trust food bank would ever need to worry about being forced to have a DWP advisor in a food bank, and no Trussell Trust food bank would be encouraged to do anything that they felt might jeopardise the non-judgemental environment our food banks operate in.

“We have no plans to place DWP job advisers in Trussell Trust food banks.”

Hodson added: “One idea discussed privately with some food banks and a small number of backbench MPs (but not yet discussed with DWP) was to give food bank clients opt in access to specific welfare advisers tasked with troubleshooting benefit related admin errors, delays or payments that had lead people to need food banks.

“The idea (which has not even been piloted) would be to right the wrongs of the current system which can leave people without an income for weeks or even months, and this person might be available on the phone rather than in a food bank. This is very different to a job adviser.”

The trust states 44% of referrals to its food banks are a direct result of benefit related issues.

Source: Trussell Trust will not have Jobcentre staff in foodbanks – Third Force News

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39 thoughts on “UK’s biggest food bank operator rejects plan to host DWP spies

  1. Anthony clutton

    Food banks are because of the government and there strict policy on ESA and disability they are the cause

  2. ghost whistler

    Spies is probably the best word. I’m not sure what else they would be there to do.

    That then brings up the question of data/identity protection. The DWP surely has no legal right to demand information on those that use foodbanks.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      No – it is likely that DWP staff were allowed into a food bank, although I doubt it was a Trussell Trust food bank.
      That’s not a pilot scheme; it’s just a one-off.

      1. foggy

        It was piloted at the Lalley Welcome Centre in Manchester. From research I can’t find any link that says the foodbank there is a Trussell Trust but that it is run by Catholic church’s Caritas initiative.

        A lot of benefit recipients will be relieved to hear this news but I can well imagine that has scuppered IDS’s hopes to reduce the number of UK foodbanks needed due to a decline in people requiring food parcels through being too frightened to go to a foodbank.

        Can I ask that readers of this blog consider donating to a foodbank for the Christmas season. I’ve added a couple of kiddies selection packs and a couple of tins of salmon to my usual donation to them.

  3. jonathansharpe

    Tell the Jobcentre as little as possible, anything you say will be twisted and misconstrued, used against you to sanctions you. Do not tell them you are doing anything with your time other than looking for work. Do not tell them you spend a portion of your day shopping (which actually takes a while looking for the best deals, on a small income) Do not tell them you do any hobbies, gardening ,keeping fit etc. If they spot you walking about town shopping, or visiting a food bank – you are no looking for work in their twisted abstract- And will stop your payments to review and then close your claim.

    1. Helen

      I agree with everything you have said. DO NOT tell them anything other than the absolute little they need to know!

  4. AndyH

    Good, having the job centre turning up at food banks is like having Walter White turning up at an addicts centre.

  5. Jeffery Davies

    Hmmm the Trussell trust they were the ones in the beginning offering dwp a place to put a spy funny nay they were thought up by yories

  6. Steve Chapman

    I recall that the Trussell trust were the first to be siloenced by the ‘Gagging Bill’ – By Iain Duncan Smith – even before it was officially in place – I am going off a dodgy memory though – I think that would have been one of your articles though David?

  7. Fran Yeldham

    Mike, when did the Trussell Trust spokesperson say this!!. They (Trussell Trust) in their written evidence to the Gov. inquiry recommend that the JCP places advisers into the foodbanks.

    Written evidence from Trussell Trust (BFD0147)


    1. The Trussell Trust welcomes the opportunity to respond to this inquiry. We operate the UK’s largest foodbank network, with over 1,200 centres providing a minimum of three days’ nutritionally-balanced food and support to people experiencing crisis. The experience of our foodbanks, evidenced in this submission, identifies a clear link between welfare delivery

    22. There are some positive recommendations from foodbanks on how working with JCPs could better help clients. 28 of the 51 foodbanks suggested the single biggest thing Job Centre Plus could do locally would be to station an advisor in foodbanks for a few hours a week. The majority would welcome training for foodbank volunteers – and offered training to JCP advisers on how foodbanks operate.

    23. Specific suggestions included:

    “An advisor in foodbank would be helpful also training for our volunteers. If it was possible for Job centre to provide computers during session this would help greatly with individuals getting help to do their job search.” Debbie Shelley, Manager, South Sefton

    40. There are positive opportunities for JCPs to engage clients in partnership with foodbanks to improve experiences of benefits delivery:

    We recommend a pilot placing JCP advisers in a trouble-shooting capacity within foodbanks seeing some of the highest volumes of benefit delays.
    Those JCPs that have not yet done so should arrange a visit to their foodbank and for reciprocal training and information sharing with the project manager, so both JCP staff and volunteers can better understand each other’s work and help foodbank clients receiving welfare.
    Cross community forums are a useful for joint working. Local agencies and support services (foodbanks, housing associations, children centres, etc.) would benefit from DWP attendance. The DWP attended a recent Wiltshire forum which Salisbury foodbank found useful.
    41. We recommend the DWP investigates Universal Credit arrears and administrative delays and ensure clients are aware of flexibility on payments as well as speeding up the delivery process and ensuring claimants do not have automatic dedications or reductions leaving them on low or no income.

    42. We call on the new committee to act on the advice of the previous committees’ report Benefit sanctions policy beyond the Oakley Review that expressed concerns around the efficacy and impacts of the current sanctioning system.

    The Trussell Trust would welcome the opportunity to provide oral evidence to the Inquiry.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      Clearly there has been a change of heart – possibly because of the public reaction to the recent story?
      There is a link to the source article in mine, so you can visit the site for yourself and see the original story.

  8. Michael Broadhurst

    how low can the DWP sink.i agree with all of the comments above of how they would twist and misconstrue things.these people are the lowest of the low.

  9. dwrcymru

    Did you know they also stop paying your pension credits while you are changed from DLA to PIP? The reason the DWP gave was that “You could be entitled to more money”.

    1. wildswimmerpete

      In England Pension Guarantee Credit passports you into other benefits like 100% council tax rebate and housing benefit, bedroom tax exemption together with free dental treatment. Withdrawal of PGC exposes those concerned to paying council tax and bedroom tax. Another sly money-saving ruse.

  10. roybeiley

    So glad the Trussell Trust has taken this line.Talk about Trojan horses! Sneaky Peaky DWP morons trying to get inside the food banks. As Johnathan Sharpe above has said tell these goons as little as possible because they are looking for so called “evidence” to refuse a claim.

  11. Helping Hand


    Quote from Molly Hodson of the Trussell Trust: “We have no plans to place DWP job advisers in Trussell Trust food banks.”

    But it appears the DWP still has plans to put their “spies” in other non-Trussell-Trust food banks!

    I thought the Trussell Trust had their own “Financial Triage”?

    NB Definition of the word “triage”: “Sorting out”. “The selection for treatment of those casualties most likely to survive”. “Allocation of resources to where they will have the most effect, rather than where the need is most urgent or severe”. [The definition of the word triage includes the term “broken coffee beans”]!

  12. HomerJS

    Of course, you may see DWP staff in foodbanks in the future . . . after they have been sanctioned for failing to get additional hours!

    1. jonathansharpe

      I did not write my comment for my own concern, rather to warn people. But its an interesting window on your own paradigm, that you find it easy to compartmentalise people into a group whom its fine to subject to a Stasi like regime, with spying and punishment. Well don`t say I didn`t warn you, when they come to implant your microchip and turn you into a slave too, an employed slave or welfare salve. And by the way I have a pension.

  13. Joanna

    I think it’s disgusting that IDS and the DWP believe they have any right to place Advisors in Foodbanks. It’s patently obvious what their despicable motives are and I hope that no Foodbank operator allows this. It will deter really desperate people from using this service that is vital to so many who are suffering under the DWPs cruel regime. I am sceptical that these Advisors are being placed there in order to assist claimants, it’s just another avenue being used by IDS to penalise more people in my opinion. I hope that all Foodbank charities oppose this vociferously.

  14. digger

    dont trust the trussell trust to tell the truth as it is managed by ex hedge fund and bank p.r people etc…very suspicious if you ask me

  15. casalealex

    Correct me if I am wrong, but I was under the impression that people attending foodbanks, have to have chit from DWP that they are entitled to get help from the foodbank. I also believed that anyone using a foodbank was only allowed to use it no more than three times a year. So if DWP are giving these chits to claimants, surely they have a record of them, and are fully aware of the reasons claimants are being sent to a foodbank. Please enlighten me x

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