Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Freud denies food bank rise and welfare reform link

Lord David Freud has said there is ‘no evidence’ of a link between the government’s welfare reforms and the surge in the numbers of people using food banks.

The welfare reform minister was asked in parliament yesterday about the increase in the numbers of people turning to food banks. The Trussell Trust charity has estimated the number of people using food banks in 2012 was 350,000, almost triple the number from the previous year.

Labour Lord William McKenzie suggested the abolition of the social fund, which provided grants to people in need, is to blame for the increase. Lord McKenzie said: ‘Does the minister not accept that this, taken together with harsher benefit sanctions regimes and a longer wait for benefits, will mean that the use of food banks will only increase? Is it not a fact that under this government food banks are looking to be a permanent part of the welfare provision of this country?’

Reverend Tim Thornton, the Lord Bishop of Truro, also tackled Lord Freud on the issue. He said: ‘[Is] the government prepared to concede that there may be a link between benefit delays, errors and sanctions and the growing number of people using food banks? .’

Lord Freud said it is difficult to make ‘causal connections’.

He said: ‘There is actually no evidence as to whether the use of food banks is supply led or demand led.

‘The provision of food-bank support has grown from provision to 70,000 individuals two years ago to 347,000. All that predates the reforms. As I say, there is no evidence of a causal link.’

Lord Freud said food banks are not part of the welfare system. He said: ‘We have designed our welfare system to support people with advances of benefit where they require it.

‘It is not the job of the [Department for Work and Pensions] to monitor this provision [of food banks], which is done on a charitable basis.’

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