Foodbank network is not in discussions with DWP
Molly Hodson clarifies the position of the UK's biggest network of foodbanks in relation to hosting DWP staff on its premises
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.
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