You may remember This Writer was incensed at the plan to impose ‘Job Centre advisers’ on food banks to spy on the people receiving parcels there as if they were lying about being unable to afford food.
I said the DWP’s time would be better-spent eliminating the need for food banks altogether.
It was an attitude that seemed to win sympathy from the Trussell Trust, the UK’s largest food bank operator, when Molly Hodson, head of media and external affairs, said: “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.”
Now we have confirmation that the DWP’s secret police will not be forced on food banks.
Of course, our underhanded Government couldn’t announce the U-turn in a straightforward way. No, we had to have it in a written answer to a question in the House of Commons.
Where honesty is concerned, it seems that, yet again, the Conservative Government is the pauper.
A plan to place job advisers in food banks has been quietly dropped by the Government, despite Welfare Secretary Stephen Crabb praising the plan just last week.
Iain Duncan Smith floated the scheme in October, suggesting a Job Centre advisor should be posted in food banks, to give people seeking emergency food parcels advice on how to find work.
The pilot scheme was criticised at the time, with Labour saying it “highlights the grim reality that people depending on emergency food is increasingly a central part of Iain Duncan Smith’s vision for our social security system.”
And the Child Action Poverty Group said it already had advisers in food banks “dealing with misery caused by the Department for Work and Pensions.”
But in a written answer in the House of Commons, Welfare minister Priti Patel suggested the formal plan was being quietly shelved, and would only happen at “local discretion”.
In a written answer to the House of Commons, Priti Patel said: “Jobcentre Plus Work Coaches undertake outreach work every day in local communities on a number of activities which includes supporting the Troubled Families Programme, homeless hostels, drug and alcohol dependency and ex-offenders.
“The decision on engagement with food banks and other local community initiatives will continue to remain at local discretion; where Jobcentre Plus is invited to work with a food bank provider and where there is local need.”
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