The Guardian has reported that the Department for Work and Pensions has launched a secret £217,000 investigation to see if its austerity policies are harming people in poverty.
The report aims to find if the department and its policies are behind the surge in foodbank usage, after the number of emergency food parcels soared from 61,000 in 2010/11 to 1.3 million last year.
A four-page document was leaked to the national newspaper, detailing the aims of the study over the course of a year, with the results to be published in October of next year. The objective of the study is “to identify any areas of DWP policy or operational practice that may have contributed to a rise in the demand for foodbank services.” It will seek to survey 600 foodbank manager and 500 foodbank users, along with a small number of people who regularly use the service.
Head of the DWP Esther McVey has previously come under fire for her stance on foodbanks and their usage, including her infamous address to the Commons on 8 January: “In the UK it is right that, you know, more people are visiting – as you would expect – going to foodbanks, because as times are tough, as we are all having to pay back this £1.5 trillion debt with spiralled under Labour” – which MP Luciana Berger called disgraceful” and showed “absolutely no empathy.”
In a statement to the Guardian, a DWP spokesperson said: “As we have said previously, we are currently reviewing research carried out by organisations to add to our understanding of foodbank use and will consider further research to add to our evidence base, to ensure we’re providing the best possible support for vulnerable groups.”
The United Nations have previously declared the UK’s austerity policies in breach of international human rights obligations, noting that the reforms adversely affected “women, children, persons with disabilities, low-income families and families with two or more children.”
Their report specifically highlighted how these austerity reforms would increase the risk of poverty and continuous unemployment for people with disabilities.
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