The United Nations has launched an investigation into whether Iain Duncan Smith's disability benefit changes have led to "grave or systemic violations" of disabled people's human rights.
The UN's Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), which is carrying out the unprecedented inquiry, has the power to launch a formal probe if it receives "reliable information" that human rights violations have occurred in a country signed up to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD).
This comes after a report last month by the Just Fair coalition suggested that the UK had descended from being an international leader in disability rights to being in danger of becoming a "systematic violator of these same rights".
The committee refused to confirm or deny that it was investigating the UK, as its investigations are "confidential". However, former CPRD member professor Gabor Gombos, told a conference in June that the CRPD had "started its first inquiry procedure against the United Kingdom”, as reported by the Disability News Service.
He said formal probes are launched in circumstances "where the issue has been raised and the government did not really make effective actions to fix the situation. He added: "It is a very high threshold thing; the violations should really be grave and very systemic."
This is not the first time the United Nations has waded into British political debates, as UN aide Raquel Rolnik called for the U.K earlier this year to ditch its controversial "bedroom tax" policy.
Rolnik's report was dismissed as a "misleading Marxist diatribe" by Tory ministers, with the UN later telling HuffPost UK that she had been subject to a "blizzard of misinformation" and "xenophobic" tabloid reports.
The UN's latest inquiry sparked further fury from Tory MPs, with one backbenchers labeling UN officials "idiots". Conservative MP Michael Ellis said: "This politically motivated loony left decision brings the UN organisation in to disrepute.
"At a time when there are grave international crises around the world and when in dozens of countries around the world there are no benefits available, this absurd decision is made to attack our country which rightly does more than almost any other to protect the rights of disadvantaged people from all walks of life."
A spoeksperson for the Department for Work and Pensions said: "This Government is committed to supporting disabled people and we continue to spend around £50bn a year on disabled people and their services."
Not true, say The Trussell Trust. They work with dieticians to design a nutritionally balanced food parcel, but crucially using non-perishable items that can last, unlike American food banks that giver users any old near-dated surplus food.
This was the argument used by millionaire Lord Freud in the House of Lords. But "people can’t just turn up asking for free food, they are referred by professionals"" says Chris Mould, executive chair of the Trust. If someone turns up without a voucher, food bank staff put them in touch with relevant local agencies who can assess whether they need a voucher and signpost them to the right services.
This is the defence that Cameron has oft used in Prime Minister's Questions. The number of people receiving emergency food is disproportionate to the number of new foodbanks opening: last year numbers helped by foodbanks increased by 170% whilst there was only a 76% increase in new foodbanks opening.
Again, this is a common Tory refrain, and one recently examined in the Spectator. Foodbanks obviously don't dispute the first part but they are ‘deeply concerned’ by the growing numbers who are needing them. And many politicians are horrified. "If you had told be at the beginning of my political career that I'd be addressing this kind of problem when I was coming to the end of my career, I'd have been gobsmacked," government poverty tsar Frank Field MP has said.
Over 50% of children living in poverty in the UK are from working households and many of the people helped by foodbanks are in work, with the rising cost of living combined with no rise in wages causing many to hit a crisis where they can’t afford to eat.
This was a refrain heard regularly last week as it emerged Tesco throws away two-thirds of its bagged salad. Firstly, small local food banks often cannot cope with storing perishables. And the Trussell Trust doesn't believe in giving people sub-standard, out-of-date food "simply because they are poor," Mould says. Charity FareShare does work to redistribute surplus food from supermarkets and manufacturers to local charities.
The Trussell Trust receives no government funding and foodbanks are not part of the welfare state. In fact, their foodbanks are advised by head office against entering into contractual agreements with local authorities.
This is the Department of Work and Pensions line. But this has been possible since 2011, so would not explain the latest drastic rise of foodbank use increasing by a third. And the Trussell Trust believes less than 3% of people visiting food banks are referred by Jobcentres.
"If people come to a foodbank more than three times in six months our system automatically flags this so that the foodbank manager can contact their social worker or the service that referred them to make sure that there is a plan in place to help their client break out of poverty," Mould says, The Trust insists that the reality is that without foodbanks people go hungry, and they prevent people from turning to extreme measures such as shoplifting or rummaging through bins in order to eat.
The Trussell Trust is adamant that media coverage does not generate the need. Independent research shows that 1 in 5 mums regularly skip meals to feed their children in the UK today. Widespread evidence from a range of care professionals states that short term hunger is a deep and real problem in the UK. More foodbanks are opening because people are going hungry.