Foodbank network is not in discussions with DWP

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Molly Hodson clarifies the position of the UK's biggest network of foodbanks in relation to hosting DWP staff on its premises

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4th November 2015 by TFN Guest 2 Comments

To be absolutley clear following last week's story that Iain Duncan Smith is going to put job advisers in foodbanks, the Trussell Trust, which runs a network of over 420 foodbanks, has had no conversations with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) or Iain Duncan Smith about this and has not agreed to roll out this idea. Neither has The Trussell Trust been involved in any pilots.

At a local level, The Trussell Trust has been discussing ideas to improve DWP processes in order to reduce the number of people left hungry due to problems with benefits delivery. One idea discussed privately with some foodbanks and a small number of backbench MPs (but not yet discussed with DWP) was to give foodbank clients opt in access to specific welfare advisers tasked with troubleshooting benefit related admin errors, delays or payments that had lead people to need foodbanks. 

Molly Hodson

Molly Hodson

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 foodbank. This is very different to a job adviser. We have not spoken with any MPs about placing job advisers in foodbanks and we are keen to highlight that many people at foodbanks are in work. Furthermore, the DWP or Jobcenter Plus actively addressing the benefit delivery problems that it is responsible for could be positive, but this is very different to advising people at foodbanks on employment. 

Ultimately we want to find ways to reduce the number of people needing foodbanks because of benefit problems. Given that 44% of referrals to Trussell Trust foodbanks are a direct result of benefit related issues, we want to encourage the DWP to change practice in a way that helps resolve this problem, but it is fundamental that whatever solutions are suggested have the interests and wellbeing of foodbank clients at the fore.

Following DWP comments, and the media reports last week, we have asked to urgently meet the DWP to give our thoughts on ways of working that would offer a better solution for foodbanks clients.

Molly Hodson is head of media and external relations at the Trussell Trust

Comments

4th November 2015 by Lynne Friedli

It's clearly to be welcomed that the Trussell Trust is not (currently) planning to place JobCentrePlus advisers in their food banks. However, reports that TT is in discussion with DWP and/or Iain Duncan Smith are hardly surprising. The discussion on giving food bank clients 'access to welfare advisers' may have been 'private' - but it is also included in TT's written evidence to Parliament, as follows: http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/work-and-pensions-committee/benefit-delivery/written/20630.html"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. "Genuinely independent advice on welfare and other rights is important for all claimants, including those who use food banks.However, the idea that it could ever be appropriate or ethical to use JCP staff in this role shows a complete lack of understanding of what JCP staff are being paid to do - which is to use all means possible to force people off benefits, via a regime of sanctions and other punishments described by legal experts as 'incompatible with justice and outwith the rule of law'. Are the authors of this regime, and those who are paid to deliver it, to be considered as 'partners'?I hope the widespread outrage provoked by the idea of JCP advisers in food banks will give the Trussell Trust pause for serious thought. It would also be more honest of Molly Hodson to acknowledge that based on the written evidence submitted by TT, we all had good reason to be extremely concerned. Lynne Friedli

6th November 2015 by Lizzie

Aberdeen already has welfare support officers attending food banks to advise and signpost clients. These officers are part funded by the local council and (as far as I am aware) part funded by the DWP.