Foodbanks will lose credibility if they side with DWP
Placing Jobcentre advisers in foodbanks is a retrograde step says anti-poverty campaigner Peter Savage
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.
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