Foodbanks will lose credibility if they side with DWP

Foopdbanks shelf pick

Placing Jobcentre advisers in foodbanks is a retrograde step says anti-poverty campaigner Peter Savage 

3rd November 2015 by TFN 7 Comments

Foodbanks are nothing new in Scotland. For years mostly church groups ran them as a means to supply emergency food aid to those in desperate need, a stop gap for those who found themselves on hard times for whatever reason.

Growing up in Sighthill in Edinburgh, we were all aware of the local foodbank. Funded by the European Union, it supported those who were rejected from getting crisis loans from the then social security.

You needed no proof of being poor. Just by virtue of the fact you had to ask for help was proof enough.  

And there’s the crux. Foodbanks were always seen as non-judgmental, non-means tested organisations. They are for many a place of refuge where clients don’t have to jump through hoops to prove they are poor.

Will this still be the case now the biggest network of foodbanks in the country, the Trussell Trust, is considering allowing independent welfare advisors on its premises?

Whatever the arguments in favour one thing has to be understood: Jobcentre advisers are no friends of people on low incomes. On the contrary they are seen as the very symbol of what brings them to foodbanks in the first place. 

Foodbanks will lose credibility if they side with DWP

Many clients will feel anxious by the very fact a DWP employee is placed on the premises. They will be suspicious. They will be cautious. Some may even decide to forego the offer of free food

They are the ones responsible for sanctioning, the ones who question every effort they make to gain employment and they are the ones who ultimately represent the system that is cruelly pitched against society’s most vulnerable.

The Trussell Trust has not covered itself in roses regarding this episode. When back in April it received widespread criticism for inviting Scotland’s only Tory MP to open its newest foodbank, I realised the organisation perhaps wasn’t the best at PR.

Now with this latest episode myself and others are wondering if this charity truly understands who it is trying to support. Many clients will feel anxious by the very fact a DWP employee is placed on the premises. They will be suspicious. They will be cautious. Some may even decide to forego the offer of free food.

My question to the management at the Trussell Trust is what do your honestly expect to achieve from this move? Don’t you understand this will alienate a whole section of the community you aim to serve? It smacks of pandering to one of the most disliked figures in the country, Iain Duncan Smith, and everything he stands for.

Even if you do not decide to go ahead with the move, the fact it was seriously considered casts doubt on the credibility of the organisation.

Foodbanks are based on trust and need to remain so if they want to help those who need support the most.

Peter Savage is an anti-poverty campaigner and a member of the Edinburgh Anti Tax Cuts Alliance  


Please enter the word you see in the image below:

3rd November 2015 by Dennis

How long would it be before DWP and IDS find a way to infiltrate the running of food banks and then deprive the needy of their last resort or sanction the food from their mouths?

3rd November 2015 by Alison Inglis-Jones

Great if you could have spoken to Ewan Gurr or Trussell Trust press office before writing this blog.

3rd November 2015 by Molly Hodson

The Trussell Trust has not agreed to put job advisers in our foodbanks as we made clear last week.The story that Iain Duncan Smith is going to put job advisers in foodbanks has been inaccurately reported by media several times. The Trussell Trust, which runs a network of over 420 foodbanks, has had no conversations with the 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. No Trussell Trust foodbank would ever need to worry about being forced to have a DWP advisor in a foodbank, and no Trussell Trust foodbank would be encouraged to do anything that they felt might jeopardise the non-judgemental environment our foodbanks operate in. We have no plans to place DWP ‘job advisers’ in Trussell Trust foodbanks.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/JCP 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 Department of Work and Pensions to give our thoughts on ways of working that would offer a better solution for foodbanks clients.We're always happy to share our views on issues like this but we haven't been asked for them by the author of this piece.Our priority, as it has always been, is to provide a quality, dignified, non-judgmental service to people who are facing hunger and hardship in Scotland and across the UK, and we would not do anything to jeopardise that.

3rd November 2015 by bill nicol

Perhaps Peter Savage could work with Scotland's only Labour MP, to give the Trussell Trust advice. On how to win over the Scottish people to something that may be unpopular. Or put in safeguards that would make the advisors seem less of a threat. For example a board similar to those sometimes seen outside opticians with appointment slots available and a list of services offered. You don't see opticians at the entrance taking the names of people, the eye test is optioal

3rd November 2015 by bill nicol

* for Trussell Trust read community outreach locations. The meetings would be entirely optional and word of mouth would determine there success.

4th November 2015 by Gillian Kenney

Thanks for highlighting this Peter - I hope that the Foodbanks will remain independant of Govt resources - . "Big Brother" has a lot to answer for . pray God provides His wisdom , so that those in need - the hungry - can be fed - whatever their circumstances - Those of us who work in the Foodbanks are well able to refer food bank users to all benefits agencies and local charities as required by the people who want and need this information. We have training to do this work and local knowledge too .