Leaked documents revealed last week show the Government has drawn up plans to internally investigate the links between food bank usage and DWP policy.
The documents appear to show a DWP research proposal that aims to “identify any areas of DWP policy or operational practice that may have contributed to a rise in demand for food bank services”.
The study will gather evidence from the Trussell Trust, independent food banks, food bank users and agencies involved and those that provide referrals. One question it seeks to answer is whether or not DWP policy and the administration of benefits contributes to food bank usage. This includes the transition between benefits and any payment delays.
After years of this Tory Government arguing there is no link between their policies and the increased use of food banks, this study is well overdue.
From speaking with constituents who have had to turn to food banks in ever greater numbers, to the food bank staff who have described the explosion in demand, it is absolutely clear that DWP policy and benefit processing problems are the major causes for people to turn to a food bank.
I hope this study gets to the reality of Government policy and signifies that the Government will look again at Universal Credit and pause its rollout – something I argued for in a debate on Universal Credit last month. But until that time, we will continue to see people turning to food banks.
The draft research proposal sets a date of October 2019 for the publication of its report.