DWP director says some people 'welcome the jolt' of benefit sanctions

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Neil Couling from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) said the rise of food banks is the result of poor people maximising their "economic choices", not by tougher rules over benefit payments, on 29 April 2014.

Mr Couling, work services director at the DWP, also told the Welfare Reform Committee that many people who face benefit sanctions "welcome the jolt" it can give them.

Tougher sanctions were introduced for Jobseeker's Allowance in October 2012 which can see benefits suspended if claimants have failed to do enough to find work, turn down jobs offered to them or fail to turn up to appointments.

In the earlier committee session, charities and advice agencies said these new sanctions and other changes to welfare are fuelling demand for food banks, which was rejected by Mr Couling.

"My view, very clearly, is that this is a supply-led growth going on, and it will continue to grow over the years ahead, whatever the path of welfare policies are, because we live in a society where there are poor people and rich people, and people will maximise their economic choices. That's just how economies work," he said.

The committee's deputy convenor Jamie Hepburn MSP said: "We have had a variety of people working with folk on the ground stating that when they (food bank users) come in, they are citing sanctions and other welfare reform matters."

Mr Couling continued: "People will tell you things in order to maximise their economic choices, in the same way people will tell you that 'I am looking for work', because they know the consequences, if they say 'I am not looking for work', then they get sanctioned.

"Similarly people will present to food banks - this may not be wilful deceit going on, this may be their belief about the situation. The food banks will then record that and that will be reported back as fact.

"That doesn't establish a causal link and the supply argument is much stronger."

You can watch part one of the committee with evidence from charities and advice groups here: Welfare Reform Committee 1

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