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Whether a senior member of the government should formally meet the Trussell Trust food bank network has recently become a matter of absurd diplomatic and political sensitivity, as if the trust was a dangerous terrorist organisation rather than a church-based charity that gives pasta and cornflakes to poor and hungry people.

Notoriously, the work and pensions secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, has persistently snubbed the trust, on the grounds that it is a publicity-seeking, politically partisan scaremongerer. His associates have sought to smear and discredit the trust and its chief executive, Chris Mould, with a venom that is extraordinary, though of a piece with the government’s more general contempt for campaigning charities.

A haphazard party line has been created to try to neutralise the Trussell threat: rapid food bank growth happened under Labour (wrong); charity food parcels are free so obviously people want them (wrong and pathetic); other countries have food banks too (your point being?).

The department for work and pensions has tried dirty tricks, unilaterally redesigning food bank referral vouchers issued by jobcentres in an attempt to disrupt the collection of data by Trussell on who uses food banks and why. It has contrived an elaborate formulation by which jobcentres do not “refer” claimants to food banks, merely “signpost” them. Food banks, the DWP insists prissily, are really nothing to do with us.

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source: The Guardian
published: 28 January 2014

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