The embattled Work and Pensions Secretary, Ian Duncan Smith, is at odds with the Trussel Trust this week. The food bank charity has been trying to engage with the Government over its concerns about the increase in calls for its services since changes to the Benefits system began to be introduced in April. This week however they were accused by the Tory politician of scaremongering and its message dismissed as non-partisan and political.
Ian Duncan Smith has denied their claims that the controversial changes brought in by the government were behind the massive increase in people relying on food banks for emergency supplies in the United Kingdom. Writing to the Observer newspaper, he criticised the Trussel Trust for continuing to link the growth in demand for their service to welfare reforms. His position in the letter is that he believes that the trust is seeking to achieve publicity by being open about political opposition to welfare reform.
According to the Trussel Trust, nearly half a million people have needed emergency help from the charity since April. The Trust runs some four hundred food banks across the UK, and many of the people helped in the last nine months have been children. Given the continued increase in demand for their services, the charity has been trying to arrange a meeting with the head of the Department for Work and Pensions, without success to date.
In addition, the minister for welfare reform, Lord Freud, has also been turning down requests for meetings. A statement by the DWP says that the benefits system supports millions of people and refutes suggestions that the increase in use of food banks is in any way related to welfare reform. It went on to say that the program was going to result in improvements to the lives of many of the poorest members of society. The Universal Credit scheme will make life easier for three million households, many of whom will be in the bottom third of UK incomes.
The DWP also pointed out that the Trussel Trust is opening new food banks at a rate of three new facilities every week, so it isn’t surprising that more people are using them, especially given that more people are aware of them than ever before from news reports and the trust’s publicity.
The chairman of the Trussel Trust, Chris Mould, is reported as being very disappointed by the situation, but says that he is continuing to be open to meeting ministers to begin some form of dialogue that they hope will lead to a fresh approach to the situation.