Jobcentre Staff Told By DWP Not To Record Number Of People They Send To Foodbanks

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Jobcentre Staff Told By DWP Not To Record Number Of People They Send To Foodbanks

Postby dutchman » Wed Aug 08, 2018 4:45 pm

DWP directive masks extent of welfare system's reliance on charities, say critics

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Jobcentre staff are told not to keep a record of the number of people they direct to foodbanks, despite appearing to send thousands of people to charities providing food parcels to hard-pressed families.

A directive, issued by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP), tells staff they must not use the term “referral” or “voucher”, and should not keep any record of the number of people they “signpost” to foodbanks.

Critics have urged the Government to halt the practice as ministers have used the lack of records to dodge questions about the impact of welfare reforms.

The revelation also indicates how charities are being relied upon to support the benefits system, but not to what extent. One major food bank charity says it hands out nearly 60,000 food parcels every year as a result of “signposting”.

The Whitehall department’s so-called ‘Operational Instructions’ were obtained following a Freedom of Information request in February which asked for details on what staff are told to do if people ask for food aid. The FOI was first flagged by Alex Tiffin on his blog, Life Of A Universal Credit Sufferer.
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The instructions state that instead of offering referrals or vouchers to claimants, Jobcentre staff must only offer “signposting slips”.

In bold letters, the instructions say: “The signposting slip must not be referred to as a Foodbank Voucher.”

The only time Jobcentre staff are allowed to keep track is if the foodbank makes a request, the instructions reveal.

By not officially keeping track of the data, the Government has been able to avoid answering awkward questions from MPs.

When Justin Tomlinson, a junior minister at the DWP, was asked about how many people who use Jobcentres need the help of foodbanks last month, he said: “We do not record the number of people using foodbanks or other types of food aid.”

Last month, Baroness Buscombe, the DWP’s spokesperson in the House of Lords, was asked how many families affected by a Government crackdown on benefits for households with two children or more were using foodbanks.

“We do not record the number of people using foodbanks or other types of food aid,” she said, adding charities do keep records.

The DWP Secretary, Esther McVey, previously refused to reveal the ‘Operational Instructions’ when she was a junior minister in 2013.

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