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.
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