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Tales from the Food Bank: tumbleweed times at the last-chance saloon

Faint echos of mournful trumpets waft to us on the hot dry air of Blawarthill in Glasgow's wild west.

Admin boss Kyle sits in a battered chair on the porch, under the peeling food-bank sign. Food-bank manager Gill, smouldering in a ragged flamenco skirt slams down a shot of tequila in front of him. "Two pesos, dog," she says, her lips slightly out of sync with the words. The volunteers sit in a row on the floor, backs against the wall, sombreros pulled low, silently smoking hand-rolled cigarettes.

Kyle looks up to the horizon, eyes glittering with the onset of madness, muttering hoarsely to no-one: "They weell come, you see, my fren', they weell come."

And the sign creaks on its hinges in the gusts of wind as the tumbleweed blows past.

Well not quite, but you get the picture. It's been a bit deserted, with a lack of clients, for whom of course this is the last-chance saloon.

With not enough to do we rearranged the green boxes packed with food, into a well-labelled, easily accessible stacking system, we cleared the floor of its random clutter of old boxes, shelf units and household items, and we spent some time clearing the garden at Blawarthill Parish Church, where the food bank is based.

We were a bit baffled by the phenomenon but then we did a bit of digging, and we think we know a big part of the answer.

We have it from a reliable source that DWP staff at Jobcentres were sent a new National Bulletin, four or five weeks ago. Instead of being told they can "refer" people to foodbanks, staff now have to "signpost" them.

That means clients have to ask the DWP staff for a note if foodbanks are mentioned, and we guess that if they don't know they need a written referral, they may not get one.

Junior DWP staff are under threat of job losses, with appraisals in May, so our source reckons staff have been frightened of even mentioning foodbanks in case it is deemed to be an "illegal" referral.

Why on earth would they do this? The answer I think lies in the Government's consistent disdain and fear of foodbanks, as a clear marker of the level of food poverty in Coalition Britain. If people don't get referred by DWP, then we're less able to argue DWP sanctions are to blame for food-bank use. It's a win-win for Iain Duncan Smith, and a lose-lose for the food bank clients.

So here's a better slogan, Long Live the Food Banks: they are a political statement that demonstrates unequivocally that the Coalition Government is just plain wrong.

Contextual targeting label: 
Food and drink

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