18 November 2007
Stirling Citizens Advice Bureau has begun a food voucher scheme for clients left destitute because they are unable to get through to DWP call centres.
The initiative began with Scotland football manager Alex McLeish handing over a cheque for £1,500 to the bureau to fund vouchers which can be exchanged for food and household items in a number of stores in Stirling.
According to bureau manager Craig Anderson, the bureau is seeing an increasing number of people with no money for food. Mr Anderson is in doubt about the cause:
"The main reason that this is happening appears to be the length of time it takes to get benefit paid since the Department of Work and Pensions have adopted a call centre model, based in Middlesborough. It can take up to 6 to 8 weeks to receive money from the date you call to claim. In the intervening weeks people can claim a Crisis loan but it is often very difficult to get through to this telephone based helpline due to the volume of calls."
Caroline Flint MP, Minister for Employment and Welfare Reform, responded angrily to the initiative, stating that all claimants in Scotland are paid their benefits on time, crisis loans are normally paid within 48 hours and that Stirling CAB was being 'completely irresponsible' in handing out food vouchers. Claimants in Stirling may be left wondering how a minister so out-of-touch with reality can safely be allowed out alone.
© 2007 Steve Donnison