Britain isn’t eating: Duncan Smith’s fury as Church’s advert campaign says that benefit cuts are forcing poor to use food banks
- Charity Church Action on Poverty has created the billboard
- Features the design of Saatchi an Saatchi’s famous Tory election poster
- Slogan Labour Isn’t Working replaced with Britain Isn’t Eating
- Advert blames benefit reforms for more people using food banks
- Iain Duncan Smith has labelled the campaign ‘scaremongering’
By Tamara Cohen
PUBLISHED: 23:28 GMT, 22 December 2013 | UPDATED: 12:32 GMT, 23 December 2013
Iain Duncan Smith’s officials have attacked a Church-backed campaign that claims his benefit changes are forcing people to go to food banks.
In a striking billboard advert that says ‘Britain Isn’t Eating’, the charity Church Action on Poverty uses the famous image from the Conservatives’ 1979 election poster, ‘Labour Isn’t Working’.
The highly political charity poster features the same long line of people used to illustrate dole queues under Jim Callaghan’s ailing government, but this time places them outside a food bank.
It reads: ‘Thousands are going hungry because of benefit changes. Call for urgent action.’
But a spokesman for Mr Duncan Smith’s Department for Work and Pensions said there was ‘no robust evidence’ welfare reforms are linked to increased use of food banks.
The charity, supported by the Church of England and other churches, says on its website that half a million people used aid from food banks this year.
It claims ‘the single most common reason for people to need food aid is that their benefits have been changed, delayed or stopped’.
The figures appear to come from the Trussell Trust, which runs 400 food banks in Britain. Its chairman, Chris Mould, has been accused by Mr Duncan Smith of ‘scaremongering’ and ‘political messaging’ by claiming the use of them is linked to welfare reforms.
In a letter leaked yesterday the Work and Pensions Secretary rejected the idea, writing: ‘I strongly refute this claim and would politely ask you to stop scaremongering in this way.
‘I understand that a feature of your business model must require you to continuously achieve publicity, but I’m concerned that you are now seeking to do this by making your political opposition to welfare reform overtly clear.’
He told Mr Mould that the DWP’s record in processing welfare claims had improved under the Coalition and would do further when Universal Credit – the merging of six benefits into one payment – is up and running.
The DWP says 92 per cent of benefits are processed on time, compared with 86 per cent in 2009-10 under the last government.
Labour MPs have repeatedly used increases in the number of food banks as evidence of a ‘cost of living crisis’.
But a DWP spokesman said that if three new food banks are opening every week, as the Trussell Trust says, then ‘it’s not surprising more people are using them’.
He added: ‘Our welfare reforms will improve the lives of some of the poorest families in our communities with Universal Credit making three million households better off – the majority of these from the bottom two fifths of the income scale.’
Tory MP Mark Pritchard wrote on Twitter last night: ‘If some parts of the Church of England preached a little more gospel and a little less politics – perhaps [the] Church would be in a better place.’
For the launch of the Britain Isn’t Eating campaign, Church Action on Poverty said on its website: ‘The explosion in food poverty and the use of food banks is a national disgrace.
It undermines the UK’s commitment to ensuring all its citizens have access to food – one of the most basic human rights.’
A Church of England spokesman said the charity was independent but shared some personnel, adding: ‘There are more than 400 food banks up and down the country?…?many supported or run by local churches?…?Supporting those in need is a core gospel value for Christians.’
Mr Mould denied that his organisation was politically motivated and said Mr Duncan Smith has refused to meet him to discuss the issue.
Sir Tony Baldry, Tory MP for Banbury, said a survey this year found 62 per cent of food bank users did so because of low income, 42 per cent because of benefit changes and 35 per cent as a result of benefit delays.
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