Mhairi Black slams Iain Duncan Smith over job advisers in food banks


Pilot scheme sees food bank in Manchester staffed with job advisers from time of opening

MP for Paisley and Renfrewshire South Mhairi Black has slammed Tory Minister Iain Duncan Smith over plans to place job advisers in food banks.

Black, who is the youngest MP in the House of Commons, also challenged Duncan Smith over the link between damaging welfare cuts he has pioneered and the explosion in the number of food banks since 2012.

She said: “The UK Government will not fund food banks and ministers refuse to acknowledge the links between their policies and the increase in need for food banks – yet they are now trying to use them as an outpost for Jobcentre Plus staff.

“Duncan Smith should concentrate on trying to eradicate the need for food banks by changing the policies that are driving people into crisis situations including low incomes, benefit sanctions and maladministration and the raft of welfare changes and cuts introduced over the past five years.”

Duncan Smith has overseen a radical restructuring of the welfare system, including controversial measures such as the workfare programme, which sees recipients of unemployment benefit work in select businesses for their payments, and work capability assessments which test the capacity of disabled people for work, and removing them from employment and support allowance if they are able to perform simple tasks.

Black also challenged Duncan Smith in the Commons Work and Pensions Select Committee on the link between social security cuts and food bank use: “The Trussell Trust say the number of people using their Scottish food banks increased 398 per cent between 2012 and 2014,” she said.

“Do you think there is any correlation with the welfare [cuts] that have been implemented?” she added.

Duncan Smith said: “I am trialling at the moment a job adviser situating themselves in the food bank for the time that food bank is open. We’re already getting very strong feedback about that.

“If this works and if other food banks are willing to encompass this I would like to roll this out across the UK.”

The scheme has already been piloted for three weeks in the Lalley Welcome Centre in Collyhurst, in north-east Manchester.

Picture courtesy of Cabinet Office