As the general and local elections approach in May 2015, we will get a raft of policies and promises from various political parties. Most will be very worthy and I am sure I would find myself supporting the majority. (The dictation package on my iPad typed “wordy” rather than “worthy”!).
But what I want is fewer promises from politicians, but the promise I really want is that they will make sure the basics are done properly.
The increasing reliance on food banks by almost 1 million people is caused, in many cases, by a failure of the state. Research commissioned by Oxfam, the Child Poverty Action Group, the Church of England and the Trussell Trust has found that delays and gaps in the welfare state are behind the increase in the numbers turning to food banks. They say that minor adjustments to the benefits system could prevent many from needing emergency food.
In an article in today’s Independent, the charities are reported as saying that improving access to short-term advances in benefits and simplifying the claims process would limit the numbers falling through the cracks and they also recommended a reform to the sanctions system to stop benefits for long stretches of time, often after minor mistakes, such as not attending a meeting.
The charities say that one in five using food banks had household benefits stopped or reduced because of a sanction and more than a quarter were waiting for a benefit claim which had not been decided.
Huge amounts being spent on the mechanism to reform welfare, much of which is not producing the desired changes and is having to be written off. Surely it is not too much to ask that the DWP actually delivers its current system promptly, accurately and completely. Hardship could be avoided as would the embarrassment of increasing reliance on food banks to prevent hunger.
A politician who promised to do less but do things better, and then delivers on that, would have my vote.