David Cameron's claim that his government has supported food banks has been flatly denied by the head of The Trussell Trust.
The Trust is the biggest food bank provider in the UK, and Chris Mould, its chief executive, said he was “annoyed, puzzled and confused” by the Prime Minister's statement.
Mould said the government had "broken its agreement" with food banks, despite its claim that it had gone further than the previous Labour regime in referring people in need.
He told The New Statesman:
“We’re annoyed, puzzled and confused because the reality is not as he paints it... the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) had an agreement with us in 2011 and they’ve reneged on it. They’ve now said they won’t hand out vouchers to families in distress… The DWP is not doing what the Prime Minister is saying and this needs to be sorted out.”
Mould also said he did not understand why the change had happened:
“We don’t know the reason (why DWP have made this decision). From our perspective it’s a real problem because we have a relationship of trust with our donors. They need to know there is validity to these claims…If people come to us from jobcentres with no paperwork we say we can’t help. We need assurance.”
The Trussell Trust runs 380 UK food banks, but all those using them need to be referred by an official agency like a council or jobcentre.
Despite denials from government minister Lord Freud, the Trust released figures in July showing that food bank use had more than doubled since the coalition introduced its benefit cuts.
It also said that more than half of all referrals were linked to benefits issues.
The major reasons for the rise were sanctions, benefit delays - which will be worsened by Chancellor George Osborne's announcement of longer waiting times for first claims - the bedroom tax, and cuts to council tax relief.
To read the full New Statesman article, click here.