The Minister in charge of the welfare system has admitted she knows nothing about an investigation by her own department into what is driving people to visit food banks.
The study was launched in 2018, and was set to see if the government’s own policies had led to an increase in food bank use.
ICYMI News can reveal that one MP has been told the study is actually complete and is currently in the “editing” phase ahead of publication.
However, Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey was clueless about the investigation when asked about it in the Commons on Monday.
Responding to a question from Labour MP Emma Lewell-Buck, Coffey – who has been in post since September 2019 – said: “To be open, I am not aware of the study.”
She added: “I will find out about it after questions, so I can send her an answer in writing.
“As I have mentioned to the House before, food bank use is not what we want to see in the long term.
“The best way to get out of poverty is through work, which is why we will continue to help people up the escalator of career progression.”
In DWP Qs I asked the SoS where her own food bank study from 2018 was. Listen here for an incompetent response… It’s almost as if when it comes to welfare reform, the Gov have something to hide. @EndHunger_UK pic.twitter.com/WILES3v6KH— Emma Lewell-Buck MP (@EmmaLewellBuck) January 28, 2020
According to food banks charity The Trussell Trust, more than 820,000 emergency food parcels were handed out to struggling people and their families in the six months to September 2019 – a rise of 23%.
The charity described that period as the “busiest on record for food banks”.
It also claimed the top three reasons for people visiting banks were were ‘low income’, ‘benefit delay’, and ‘benefit change’ – accounting for 70% of all referrals.
Food banks use has shot up since the Conservatives came to power in 2010, increasing from 41,000 food parcels handed out in 2009/10 to almost 1.5million in 2018/19.
Speaking to ICYMI News about the seemingly forgotten about report, Lewell-Buck said: “This shows a worrying level of incompetence at a very senior level of the Tory party. It shows this isn’t a priority for them.
“Someone, somewhere, knows about this report, and whoever does knows what is in it.
“It makes me think they have something to hide.”
The DWP has been contacted for a comment.