Report on Hunger in Britain: Doing Porridge.
“I had a large bowl of porridge today, which cost 4p,” Mail Online reported Baroness Jenkin as saying. “A large bowl of sugary cereals will cost you 25p.”
The Independent reports in more detail,
Feeding Britain, by the All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Hunger in the UK, is careful to avoid party politics, and so does not mention cuts to the welfare system introduced by the present Government, such as the “bedroom tax” – but it is scathing about the alleged inefficiency of the Department for Work and Pensions. “Our evidence shows that the present [welfare] system is cumbersome, complicated and fails to respond effectively,” the report says. “We heard that personal documents including birth certificates and medical records sent as part of an application for benefit had gone missing within the department.”
The inquiry team also criticises the way sanctions are imposed for some claimants who unintentionally fail to follow the rules. While it acknowledges there are people who cheat the system, others have been punished because they did not understand the rules, or for trivial reasons – including one man sanctioned for writing on the wrong side of a form.
The report criticises the way the poor are made to pay more for other basic necessities, such as electricity, through pre-payment meters, because they cannot afford the direct debit payments that the better-off use to reduce their bills. The authors heard evidence that people can be charged up to 41p a minute for calls to their utility companies, or the Work and Pensions department, if they have a query about their bills or benefits.
The central objective of the report is to offer “a series of immediate and long-term reforms which would ensure that every individual and household in this country has adequate resources, facilities and abilities to purchase, prepare and cook fresh, healthy and affordable food
On Channel Four News last night one of the two speakers on the report (the bloke on the right in the link at the bottom here) kept saying that Food Banks offer a “personalised” way of helping people. Much better apparently than the “bureaucratic ” welfare state. Apparently being forced to go cap in hand to Charity, often run by religious groups, is better than having rights.The woman in the debate (on the right) pointed to the simple fact that it was benefit sanctions that caused the major part of the demand for Food Banks.
If they offer some help to the growth of Charity – and people’s dependence on the Good Will of those running Food Banks – what do they say on these Benefit Sanctions?
This is what Feeding Britain: A Strategy for Zero Hunger in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland recommends.
Benefit Sanctions (58 – 63).
We strongly welcome the Government’s decision to accept in full the recommendations made by Matthew Oakley’s independent review into sanctions for claimants failing to take part in back to work schemes. We accordingly call on the Government to extend these measures to cover all Jobseeker’s Allowance claimants, as we have identified similar problems arising across the board, with sanctions sometimes resulting from a poor understanding of the system, rather than a wilful disregard of the requirements placed on claimants
We recommend that the Government make clear in guidance that a sanction decision is only lawful if letters are sent,and can be proven to have been received,to the claimant explaining the reason that a sanction is being imposed (including dates,what the failure was, and why there isn’tgood cause), the period the sanction will apply for, and whether Hardship Payments may be granted, and if not, why not.
We recommend that, in cases where sanctions are applied, the Department for Work and Pensions should require that claimants be immediately informed of their right to appeal the decision, and provided with the necessary documentation to do so.We recommend that Jobcentre Plus staff should be able to exercise their own discretion as to whether a requirement was missed through error or circumstances beyond the claimant’s control, and should be able to recommend that sanctions are not implemented on these occasions.
We believe claimants should be given a‘Yellow Card’ warning with the chance to provide an explanation for a first offence, and perhaps being given additional requirements to be met, before a sanction is applied.
We recommend that once a sanction has been applied, Jobcentre Plus should promptly advise the claimant to contact their Local Authority, or make contact themselves, to tell their opposite number of the reduction of income of a claimant and their right to continue to claim other benefits. In this way there should be no disruption to Housing Benefit Payments and/or Council Tax support.
This shows a willingness to to thinker with the system, not really change it.
It does not remove the almost unlimited capacity for the DWP to demand the claimants carry out any actions they deem necessary to look for employment.
It sets no guidance for removing unreasonable obligations.
It leaves power in the hands of the DWP and its ‘job coaches.
It offers a patronising system of “yellow card” warnings for the naughty claimants.
It does not even mention the cuts to benefits, and extra charges (such as the Council Tax) this government has lumbered us with.
There is no indication of the need to increase benefits to meet the rise in food and utility prices – which they also indicate are a major cause of food poverty.