Ian Duncan Smith wants to put benefit advisors in food banks

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Iain Duncan Smith gave his first oral evidence to the Work and Penions Commitee today, during an investigation about benefit delivery. The Commitee are concerned that long waits for benefit payments are the single biggest cause of food bank use and are forcing claimants into debt and “survival crime” such as shoplifting.

A Trussell Trust survey of 51 of its food banks revealed that people typically experienced benefit delays of five weeks, although waits of up to 20 weeks were also common.

The Trussell Trust said more than one in four of its clients receive food parcels as a result of benefits delays.

This morning, Duncan Smith dismissed the findings from the Resolution Foundation that the Tory tax credit cuts will undermine universal credit because they will reduce work incentives, despite much evidence to the contrary, including from the respected Institute for Financial Study (IFS), he continued to claim that under universal credit, people would still be “better off in work.”

The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions again dismissed evidence that benefit sanctions have pushed some claimants to suicide. He said:

“I don’t accept your assertion somehow that these things are directly linked. These are tragedies in their own right and they are often very complex as individual cases. Sanctions have been part of the benefit system for some time. Under the last Labour government they were accepted as part of the benefit system. I always accepted them. I always recognised there were issues occasionally and problems but I didn’t go round accusing the then Labour government of running a system that somehow ended up in the way that you are making this allegation.”

The persistent denial from the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions that there is a correlation between the government’s welfare cuts and an increase in mortality, including suicide, flies in the face of evidence presented by the Work and Pensions Committee earlier this year, when the cross-party Committee of MPs said that since 2012 there have been at least 40 cases of people taking their own lives because of problems with welfare payments

The MPs called for an independent review into benefit sanctions, and said that they were “causing severe financial hardship” and are behind the rise in food banks. It was reported that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has investigated 49 cases where a claimant has died.

Of these, 40 involved a suicide, the Work and Pensions Select Committee said. But the DWP was unwilling to say how many of the deaths were a result of benefit sanctions or say if it had changed its policies as a result.

Iain Duncan Smith also said today that he is planning to put benefit advisers in food banks, and that this has already been piloted at one food bank in Manchester, and it was a success, he claimed, because the advisers could help resolve problems with people’s benefit claims. He told the Committee:

“I am trialling at the moment a job adviser situating themselves in the food bank for the time that the food bank is open and we are already getting very strong feedback about that. If this works and if the other food banks are willing to encompass this and we think it works we think we would like to roll this out across the whole of the UK.”

Duncan Smith also said:

“They are to provide support to people who come in and that can include people saying, ‘I haven’t had my payment’”, giving the example of a claimant whose money was delayed because officials had not seen the right documents.”

He added weakly:

“I asked how often is this happening, and they said: ‘Well, a bit.’ But what’s happening much more now is not people coming in with questions about their benefits, but they are actually interested in where [they] can find work.”

The comments from Duncan Smith come as the Fabian Society  publish a report today of a year long study that found that the Government lacks any credible strategy for addressing hunger in the UK, making a mockery of the prime minster’s party conference pledge to lead “an all-out assault on poverty” earlier this month.

In a statement after the Select Committee meeting, the Trussell Trust said:

“We welcome the government’s interest in exploring new ways that the DWP might help people at food banks who have hit crisis as a result of problems with welfare delivery, but we would also suggest that there first needs to be a dialogue between the DWP and the Trussell Trust network about the possible challenges and opportunities that hosting DWP advisers in food banks could afford. We need to look at the most helpful ways for local jobcentres and food banks to work together.”

The Trust runs 400 food banks in the UK, said it has had positive discussions with some MPs about piloting DWP advisers in their food banks, but had not talked to Duncan Smith or his advisers about the feasibility of the scheme.

The Trust statement said:

“Whilst we are not aware of any pilots taking place in Trussell Trust food banks, we are very keen to see the results of any pilots currently being undertaken by the DWP in other food banks, and we would like to contribute to future discussions on the potential effectiveness of the proposed scheme.”

But this morning, Duncan Smith questioned Trussell Trust figures that showed a 398% increase in the number of people using its food banks between 2012 and 2014 in Scotland. Whilst the figures were “genuinely put together” he claimed that they were “not absolutely clear”, he said to the Committee.

Owen Smith, the shadow work and pensions secretary, said:

“The revelation that the government is considering placing DWP staff in food banks across the country, highlights the grim reality that people depending on emergency food aid is increasingly a central part of Iain Duncan Smith’s vision for our social security system.

Under the Tories food bank use has risen exponentially, leaving more than a million people depending on emergency food. This is in no small part due to the secretary of state’s incompetent and callous running of the DWP.

It is of course important that people are able to better access advice and support from DWP staff. However, the fact that Iain Duncan Smith is so relaxed about extreme food poverty that he has allowed it to become an accepted element of the national planning for the DWP is deeply worrying.”

Iain Duncan Smith’s comments imply the government considers that charitable food banks are now a compensatory and integral part of welfare provision to indemnify against the inefficiencies and inadequacies of the DWP, and to plug the gaps in woefully inadequate provision due to the punitive Tory cuts to benefits and harsh “reforms” of the welfare state .

Iain Duncan Smith also presents a late recognition and tacit admission of a clear link between Conservative welfare policy, benefit sanctions, benefit delays, and the rise in food bank use, which was previously denied by the government.

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19 thoughts on “Ian Duncan Smith wants to put benefit advisors in food banks

  1. “… delays of five weeks …” Which UC will mandate, at minimum, for all new claims (if not longer depending on the first payment week in the cycle), so will immediately push people to the limit especially with the “no claim/no money for the first week” rule… obviously if they are already on it and in work there won’t, typically, be a need to re-claim.
    For the vast majority of people who have to claim UC their pay is probably weekly so there is no way they can last without severe hardship. The same is also true for anyone migrated from an existing benefit where they could have to wait up to 5 or more weeks for the first payment of UC instead of the usual bi-weekly payment of their existing benefit at transfer and even with the “bridging loan” would then suffer from greatly reduced payments while paying back the loan.
    The whole system has been designed around people who are paid monthly and earn much greater amounts than the vast majority of people likely to have to make a claim, it has been aimed and created for the minority of claimants and totally ignores the much larger group likely to make a first claim (weekly paid), or transfer over (bi-weekly payments or in some cases weekly for some benefits).

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  2. so what’s this then? it’s workfare for 3 days worth of food now?? not money for gas and electric, or rent, or things like clothes and stationary and equipment the disabled may need? and nothing for a small bit of enjoyment in life? Sounds to me like the life of a slave. They just go worse and worse everyday.

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  3. As welfare states have been restructured and cut back and basic entitlements have been denied, food banks have become secondary extensions of weakened social safety nets. The rise and soaring use of food banks in Britain are concrete evidence both of the breakdown of the social safety net and the commodification of social assistance. As such, they undermine the state’s obligation, as ratified in international conventions, to respect, protect and fulfill the human right to food. They enable the Cameron government to look the other way and neglect food poverty and nutritional health and well–being.

    There is growing evidence that the draconian welfare reforms are irreparably damaging the mental and physical health of benefit claimants. Health figures recently revealed a 19% increase in the number of people admitted to hospital with malnutrition over the past year, and a return of Victorian diseases linked to poverty such as gout, TB, measles, scurvy, rickets, and whooping cough are a barometer of failure and neglect. (The letters that I receive are often heart-wrenching: See http://mydisabilitystudiesblackboard.blogspot.ca/2013/03/pushed-over-edge-by-benefits-fear.html and http://mydisabilitystudiesblackboard.blogspot.ca/2014/06/sam-things-are-dire.html).

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Yes, I agree that the government know the consequences of their policies, I’ve been calling their approach “eugenics by stealth” since 2012. It’s an ideological drive – economic Darwinism

        Liked by 1 person

    1. This were from last year on the topic of increasing malnutrition and the return of Victorian disease linked with poverty – https://kittysjones.wordpress.com/2014/07/27/welfare-reforms-food-banks-malnutrition-and-the-return-of-victorian-diseases-are-not-coincidental-mr-cameron/

      And this was about the drop in food sales last year, for the first time on record, indicating a link with drop in incomes and correlating malnutrition – https://kittysjones.wordpress.com/2014/08/25/its-absolute-poverty-not-market-competition-that-has-led-to-a-drop-in-food-sales/

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  4. The only thing the trials seem to prove is that claimants need Face to Face meetings, with advisers or (even) the DWP. The current system of pushing people away, through long waits, or phone only contact, or sanctions pushes people into poverty and hunger.

    The DWP should not be welcome in any food bank. If they have the budget to offer face to face meetings for crisis counselling or other, they already have offices for that. The placing of DWP in food banks, however benign to might seem will be yet another way the DWP have of monitoring your every move. Plus, isn’t there a rule that you’re supposed to declare all gifts and goods so the value can betaken off your benefits? It used to. How will disabled people who actually struggle there feel if a DWP official can see them move, can see them collect a shopping bag?

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  5. Hollow laughter.
    (1) Where is IdiotSmith going to find enough staff to populate every foodbank in the land?
    (2) Given that foodbank users already don’t trust the system to deliver anything, why would they trust DWP staff?
    (3) How long would it be before targets (deniable) would be set for how many folk got turned away by DWP? What happens then? Can foodbank staff still serve a DWP reject?
    (4) Someone who’s been sanctioned is likely to be hostile to the DWP. Will there be Goons4Sale security staff to protect the DWP?
    Is IDS’s trial as fictitious as his ‘claimants’, their ‘comments’ or his CV. He’s got serious form as a liar.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. That weasely psychopath (denial a major indicator) – placing an advisor at a food bank perhaps to infer that the hand-outs are a government offering. And as mentioned, there are fewer staff available. IDS is in a reality gap which is causing unbelievable grief for many people.

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  7. I for one find the idea of DWP staff in food banks deeply worrying and disturbing on so many levels, I hardly dare contemplate the idea. It could potentially corrupt the whole system. If charities such as the Trussell Trust Foundation were seen to be working with/for the DWP I feel sure that this would disuade many people from entering the building.

    I seriously wonder what the underlying agenda would be here in relation to DWP and IDS as concern, compassion and honesty are not qualities I would equate with them on any level.

    I keep having disturbing thoughts such as surveillance and monitoring etc.

    I would much prefer to see advisors from Citizens Advice or such like in Food Banks helping people and fighting alongside them in relation to DWP errors and delays etc…. DWP could easily just use the info they obtain to cover their tracks…. or am being a little paranoid????

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Loobitz, I agree entirely. Not only from the point of view of the food bank users, but also the volunteers, and even the donors. How many will stop donating if they think they will be observed by the DWP or even seen to be collaborating with them? Collaborators? Yes it’s come to the ultimate in dark thinking when looking at us & them. You’re not paranoid, you’re ahead of the curve.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Cant help my suspicious mind…..
        a mind finely tuned by years of being deceived by dastardly doctrines and dupes… along with the odd as……

        with my perceptive,’visionary’ mind at full speed, I now consider the possibility that the DWP will offer renumeration to the Food Banks, capturing them in their financial net.
        Shame they tend to screw over any charity which falls for their spin in the form of cash and then retrospectively find themselves having to do the DWPs dirty work for them, so I am told by reliable sources….

        Think we need a petition or something to raise awareness of the potential harm of this, and ask all charities who are operating food banks to make a pledge to ban any DWP employees or officials from their and to refuse any dodgy coercive handouts…

        Liked by 2 people

  8. I would assume the point of this from Smith’s POV is foodbank-placed advisors would be telling the staff not to give any food to specific claimants on the basis they’d been properly advised of all their due benefits and were indeed receiving them, irrespective of whether they were or not or actually had been, of course, with nice fat bonuses in there for the advisors (your taxes at work) if claimants could be refused life-support at foodbanks as well as jobcentres. This prospect must be like a gift for him – Springtime for Smith 🙂 We’ll wait now for reports of this to come in.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Gordon Allport would agree with you. I certainly do. And the UN have also identified pro-genocide language being used in our media – by Katy Hopkins regarding refugees. It happens at the level of language and ideology. Allport described how the Holocaust happened through a series of psychosocial stages that involved the growth of prejudice. https://kittysjones.wordpress.com/2014/10/25/aktion-arbeitsscheu-reich-human-rights-and-infrahumanisation/

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      1. Confused about where I live now. Is this a progressive democracy or some despotic third-world regime, with leaders engaged in overt nepotism and personal wealth building. Cameron embraces all the worst of the USA, while our nearest neigbours look on in horror. Why are we not following the clearly superior model of society shown by Holland, Denmark etc.

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