Jobcentres have been advised to send people to food banks, raising fears of the creeping use of the emergency food as a integral part of the welfare state, it has been reported.
The Department for Work and Pensions is advising jobcentres using a six-step flowchart on how to send people to food banks, according to guidances obtained under the Freedom of Information Act and reported by the Guardian.
Ministers have previously insisted that food banks are not part of a formal system used by Jobcentres. Lord Freud insisted in July last year that "food banks are absolutely not part of our welfare system".
"Jobcentre Plus offices do not issue food vouchers," he said. "Some Jobcentre Plus offices have an agreement with their local food bank for referrals, but some simply signpost claimants to a variety of available local provision, including by local authorities, depending on their immediate needs. We gave Jobcentre Plus district managers the freedom to make local links with food banks."
But the document obtained by the Guardian shows that Jobcentres and food banks are becoming increasingly intertwined.
Staff have been given a slip to fill in for clients directed toward food banks, but are told, in bold letters, not to call this a voucher.
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Employees have been told they must do health and safety checks of the food banks they refer clients to, and they have been given a strict criteria for whom they should signpost to the food banks, including when people are subject to benefit changes, benefit payment delays, when a benefit advance has been refused, or the advance is not enough.
The Trussell Trust, Britain's largest network of foodbanks, agreed with the DWP agreed in 2011 that jobcentre staff should be able to send people in need to food banks, and agreement ministers insistent is not tantamount to a referral.
More than 350,000 people received three days’ emergency food from Trussell Trust foodbanks between April and September 2013, triple the numbers helped in the same period last year.