Friday, 30 October 2015

Welfare that Works

Image result for benefits + images

The BBC reported recently on a Government initiative to place job advisers in food banks, an idea that seems to have gone down well on a cross party basis. 

Like most people, I've heard lots of talk about the benefits system recently; from a Tory MP who spoke in the House Commons about the damaging impact of cutting tax credits for a family with two disabled children, to a young man on a Channel 5 TV programme who blew all of his benefits in a casino (In Glasgow) before heading down to his local food bank to get him through to his next 'payday'.

Seems to me that a welfare system that commands public confidence ought to be able to distinguish between these two cases because in the second example, the young man cheerfully admitted that while he could work, but chose not to because his benefits were too generous.

Job advisers placed in food banks, Iain Duncan Smith reveals

Job advisers are set to be placed in food banks across the country, Iain Duncan Smith has told MPs.

The work and pensions secretary said he would like to see a trial scheme in Manchester rolled out nationwide after it was given "very strong feedback".

The Trussell Trust, which operates food banks, says the facilities were used more than one million times in 2014-15.

It welcomed closer co-operation but said talks were needed over the feasibility of the job adviser idea.

Speaking at a meeting of the Commons Work and Pensions Select Committee, Mr Duncan Smith said: "I am trialling at the moment a job adviser situating themselves in the food bank for the time that the food bank is open and we are already getting very strong feedback about that."

If the trial was successful and other food banks are willing, he said he would like to roll it out across the UK.

Image copyright - PA Image caption - Campaigners say food bank usage has soared in the last five years

Robert Devereux, the most senior civil servant in the Department for Work and Pensions, told the MPs staff were in the food bank one day a week with phonelines available at other times.

Claimants are given advice on how to receive welfare payments as well as finding work, he said.

The advisers involved in the trial had found that food bank users tended to be more interested in where they might find work than in simply resolving issues with their benefits, he added. As a result, the advisers were teaming up with local job clubs to point people towards vacancies.

'Dialogue needed'

Frank Field, the Labour MP who chairs the committee, called it a "good reform" and said he believed the sooner it could be rolled out the better.

The Trussell Trust said it applauded efforts to get food banks and Job Centres to work together.

"We welcome the government's interest in exploring new ways that the DWP might help people at food banks who have hit crisis as a result of problems with welfare delivery," it said.

"But we would also suggest that there first needs to be a dialogue between the DWP and The Trussell Trust network about the possible challenges and opportunities that hosting DWP advisers in foodbanks could afford.

"The Trussell Trust has had positive discussions with some MPs about whether piloting DWP advisers in their local food banks could be beneficial, but we have not yet had the opportunity for dialogue with Iain Duncan Smith or DWP advisers about the feasibility of rolling out this idea."