A response from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to a Freedom of Information (FOI) request,shows staff jobcentres are told to destroy evidence of foodbank referrals and stipulate; “it is not to be used for any other purpose, including to count/monitor the number of signposting slips issued”
I came across this FOI on the website WhatDoTheyKnow, a website that makes it easy to submit an FOI to any public and governmental body.
I have myself been locked in a battle with the DWP after they refused to release statistics of the amount of people that jobcentres have referred to foodbanks.
They informed me in a response that they; “do not refer people to foodbanks but do offer a signposting service for customers who show an interest in using a foodbank.”
At first I thought that this was an attempt at stone walling me so as to hide the sheer scale of referrals made. I can now report that this is not the case, it is in-fact far worse.
Banned from monitoring referral levels
The DWP possibly in error, have released their entire checklist jobcentre staff must use when “signposting” a benefit claimant to a foodbank.
As you can see from screen grab I have included, the DWP have quite firmly stipulated that staff may not use any records of referrals, (I can’t call it signposting I’m sorry it’s a blatant lie), to “count/monitor the number of signposting slips issued.”
It is now clear that they are intent on covering up the scale of foodbank referrals made by jobcentres in an effort to hide the hardship they are causing.
In my opinion this should be a national scandal. A government agency for the most vulnerable in our country is telling staff not to keep records of the amount of people that are starving.
These statistics could be used to help improve the system or identify areas most in need of assistance. Instead they are covering up what we now know to be a massive problem facing people of all walks of life in the UK.
Blatant attempt to avoid helping foodbanks
When Universal Credit was first dreamt up a vital part of it was supposed to be “Universal Support.” This would be were third sector agencies like Citizens Advice would provide services to assist claimants.
Currently Universal Support is minimal in use. They try to claim that the two hour budgeting advice talk they give you and two hours of IT training are that support. Even Iain Duncan Smith is angered by the lack of Universal Support rollout as he found out that it is not mandatory and many areas are not taking it up.
How does this connect to foodbank referrals you ask? I think, and I could be wrong, that if they had records of the amount of referrals and called it referring this would give foodbanks a good argument to get help through Universal Support. By keeping no records and calling it signposting it’s a way of distancing themselves and saving money.
IT IS NOT A REFERRAL
As you can see the last thing on the checklist is clear. It’s not a voucher as that would then be a referral. Their use of bold font is clear that they are intent on shifting the blame.
Basically, we send you their but it is not up to us if you get it. Having been in contact with many foodbanks I can confirm that this is simply not the case.
Foodbanks keep extremely good records. One main statistic is that many report that Jobcentres are their main referring partner. Other agencies such as Social Work Departments and Citizens advice also appear.
If a foodbank get a visit from a claimant that has been given a “signposting slip,” they see this as the Jobcentre deeming that they are in need of emergency food. They wouldn’t turn the person away regardless but it helps them in getting aid to those who need it most.
This ridiculous line that they don’t refer customers and that people “show an interest” in using a foodbank, is actually really patronising. They aren’t showing an interest they’re asking for help because they are starving. “Show an interest”, pfffft.
When I first came across this I couldn’t quite believe it. Surely they wouldn’t go as far are ordering staff to destroy records? How wrong I was.
The sheer scale of foodbank use has been exposed in the past few months. Time and time again it all comes back to two things. Universal Credit and cuts to benefits.
A Trussell Trust and Oxford University study blew the DWP’s claim that Universal Credit isn’t linked to an increase in foodbank use. They found that in areas were the “flagship” benefit was in place for 12 months or more, saw a massive increase of 52% in foodbank use compared to the national average of 13%. Please not that this is only Trussell Trust foodbanks that make up approximately two thirds of all UK foodbanks.
Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey has a track record of attempting to conflate the facts. It is now clear that this is becoming a widespread Department for Work and Pensions policy.
Anyone else would call it lying.
Failure to address this now will just see the most vulnerable in our society suffer more at the hand of the Tory government as they are emboldened each time they get away with it.
I have included the full FOI response from WhatDoTheyKnow below
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1. Where a District Manager or the District Partnership Manager identifies a local foodbank
they wish to work with, they should put the necessary arrangements in place by using the
Jobcentre Plus Foodbank Signposting Service (FSS) model. The Foodbank Signposting
Service Checklist details the activities which should be carried out prior to the introduction of
2. It is recommended that each Jobcentre has either a single point of contact or a named
officer to ensure effective communication with the local foodbank. Although Jobcentre Plus
worked with Trussell Trust Foodbank Service to develop this process, the generic design of
the FSS allows the District Manager discretion to expand the signposting service to other
foodbanks or local organisations offering help to our claimants
3. The District Partnership Team is responsible for keeping the list of local support
organisations up to date as part of the District Provision Tool (DPT) process. This should
include details of the local foodbanks where a FSS arrangement is in place.
When to issue a Foodbank Signposting Slip
4. Where a FSS arrangement is in place with a local foodbank and the claimant wishes to
access the organisation’s services the Jobcentre should, where appropriate, issue the
nationally produced signposting slip (English version / Welsh version).
5. Any decision to award goods or services lies with the external organisation, not Jobcentre
Plus, and this must be made clear to the claimant
6. Some foodbanks may have specific parameters for using their service. Arrangements
should be made locally to take these into account. For example, some foodbanks will only
award a limited number of food parcels over a period of time. If the foodbank contacts
Jobcentre Plus to confirm that a claimant has exceeded this limit, their LMS Conversations
record (where an LMS record exists) should be noted: “Contact Foodbank before signposting
Completion of a signposting slip
7. Jobcentre staff must access the claimant’s LMS conversations record (if they have one) to
check if it is noted “Contact Foodbank before signposting”. If this applies, the foodbank must
be contacted before a signposting slip is issued
8. If a signposting slip cannot be issued because of specific instructions from the foodbank
and the claimant questions this, they should be directed to the foodbank for an explanation
9. If a signposting slip can be issued the Jobcentre must complete the nationally produced
signposting slip (English version / Welsh version ). No other signposting slips or Foodbank
Vouchers should be used:
Insert Jobcentre name and address (an address stamp is preferred)
Ask the claimant the number of adults and children who require food and enter these
on the signposting slip
Using information from the DPT and the claimant’s address, confirm the most
appropriate foodbank location to signpost the claimant to. Complete the address,
opening times and contact details including website address (if available)
Advise the claimant that:
o They should take the signposting slip to the foodbank within three days from
the date of issue.
o Any decision to award goods or services lies with the foodbank or other
external organisation, not Jobcentre Plus.
10. There is no Jobcentre Plus requirement to record the issue of signposting slips. However,
if the foodbank has specifically asked that Jobcentre Plus authenticate the issue of a
signposting slip, the Foodbank Sign Posting Slip Record can be used for this purpose. Note
that this record should only be used to authenticate the issue of signposting slips at the
request of the foodbank, it is not to be used for any other purpose, including to count/monitor
the number of signposting slips issued
11. All available Jobcentre Plus support (e.g. benefits due or eligibility for a STBA) must be
explored and exhausted before considering signposting to other organisations. A signposting
slip is not appropriate when assistance/support is available from Jobcentre Plus
12. If a claimant may have benefit due or could apply for a STBA but insists on being issued
with a signposting slip, direct them to the foodbank for further information
13. The signposting slip must not be referred to as a Foodbank Voucher. Jobcentres
should not hold stock or issue any foodbank vouchers provided by any foodbanks. The
decision to award a food parcel is ultimately made by the foodbank and not Jobcentre Plus.