Iain Duncan Smith says he wants Jobcentre advisers placed in foodbanks to help people get jobs
The UK’s largest provider of foodbanks said it is open to Jobcentre advisors being placed on its premises.
It comes as work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith said he would like to see a trial scheme in an independent Manchester foodbank rolled out nationwide.
The Tory MP made the announcement to Westminster’s work and pensions select committee.
The Trussell Trust, which operates 445 foodbanks in the UK, said it would welcome closer co-operation with the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP).
Jobcentre advisors would offer advice on employment as well as benefits to people visiting foodbanks.
Advisers involved in the Manchester trial found that foodbank users tended to be more interested in where they might find work than in simply resolving issues with their benefits.
As a result, the advisers were teaming up with local job clubs to point people towards vacancies.
The Trussell Trust is always open to ideas that could help people facing hunger in the UK - spokesperson
A spokesperson for the Trussell Trust said that while they weren’t aware of any pilots taking place in their own foodbanks, the charity was “very keen” to see the results of pilots undertaken by the DWP in other foodbanks. It said it would like to contribute to future discussions on the potential effectiveness of the proposed scheme.
“The Trussell Trust is always open to ideas that could help people facing hunger in the UK,” the spokesperson said.
“We are keen to explore a full range of options, for example locating independent welfare advisers at foodbanks."
They added: “We are currently consulting foodbanks in the Trussell Trust network to gather their views about hosting DWP advisers in foodbanks.”
During the committee hearing, Duncan Smith queried Trussell Trust figures showing a 398% increase in the number of people using its foodbanks between 2012 and 2014 in Scotland.
He said the figures were “not absolutely clear” and needed to be clarified before they were accepted as fact.
Owen Smith, the shadow work and pensions secretary, said: “The revelation that the government is considering placing DWP staff in foodbanks 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 foodbank 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.”