BBC, benefit, benefits, blackmail, change, charity, Chris Mould, Citizens Advice Bureau, Conservative, critic, Daily Mail, Department, DWP, food bank, government, Iain Duncan Smith, IDS, Mike Sivier, mikesivier, Pensions, people, policies, policy, politics, Reform, report, returned to unit, RTU, shut down, smear, social security, system, Tories, Tory, Trussell Trust, Vox Political, welfare, work
What would you do in that situation?
It seems that food bank charity The Trussell Trust has been making too many waves around the Conservative-led Coalition government’s policies regarding benefits, social security and welfare.
Readers may recall how the charity warned that Coalition policies had created a need for a huge expansion in the number of food banks across the UK. The Tories countered this by accusing the trust of “misleading and emotionally manipulative publicity-seeking”, and also of “aggressively marketing [its] services”.
After this failed to make a dent in public opinion, the Daily Mail tried to discredit the trust by claiming it was handing out food parcels without checking whether the people claiming them were bona fide.
But it turned out that the paper’s claim of “inadequate checks on who claims the vouchers, after a reporter obtained three days’ worth of food simply by telling staff at a Citizens Advice Bureau – without any proof – that he was unemployed” was not true. The reporter in fact committed fraud by telling a string of lies in order to falsely claim his food parcel in a flagrant abuse of the system.
The public response was immediate – donations to the Trussell Trust’s fundraising appeal shot through the roof.
Now the government has tried a different tack: blackmail. Instead of trying to justify the government’s position or undermine that taken by the trust in public, it has been revealed that, recently, “someone in power” told trust bosses that the government “might try to shut you down” if the trust continued to cause it embarrassment.
This detail was revealed while Trussell Trust chairman Chris Mould was giving evidence to the Panel on the Independence of the Voluntary Sector this week.
The Trussell Trust is in a fairly robust position with regard to government interference; a 2005 decision by the charity’s trustees to avoid seeking government funding means it is in a better position to resist pressure.
But the trust has to consider the worst-case scenario. If the government did manage to shut it down, hundreds of thousands of people would starve.
That is the real threat posed by the Conservative-led government. Shutting down the Trussell Trust won’t hurt anybody who runs the charity or volunteers for it.
But it could kill food bank users across the country.
It is exactly the kind of covert, backstabbing move we have come to expect from the likes of Iain Duncan Smith.
Oh, come on! You knew RTU (it means Returned To Unit and is our tribute to his Army career) would figure in this article somewhere.
According to Mr Mould, he received a phone call from “someone” in the office of the Secretary-in-a-State about Work and Pensions, back in 2011. He said it was “basically to tell me that the boss was very angry with us because we were publicising the concerns we have over the rising number of people who were struggling as a consequence of delays and inefficiences in the benefits system”.
Unfortunately – for sly abusers like Duncan Smith – the kind of threats recorded above are really only useful when they are kept secret. The idea is always to present the victim with a double-bind – in this case, not only would food bank users suffer, but the Trussell Trust would get the blame for having withdrawn the service (whether voluntarily or not).
Now that we all know the government itself is putting the screws on – and is doing so in retaliation against the Trussell Trust’s entirely legitimate attempts to raise awareness of government policies’ disastrous effects – it would be electoral suicide.
That being said, watch Iain Duncan Smith on Question Time today.
He’s probably stupid enough to go through with it anyway.
Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike
Join the Vox Political Facebook page.
Vox Political needs your help!
This independent blog’s only funding comes from readers’ contributions.
Without YOUR help, we cannot keep going.
You can make a one-off donation here:
Alternatively, you can buy Vox Political books!
The second – Health Warning: Government! is now available
in either print or eBook format here: