Have things become so bad in the UK that food vouchers areto be distributed to the poor?
According to a report in The Guardian, work and pensionssecretary Iain Duncan Smith is keen on a scheme whereby Jobcentre Plus staffwould hand food vouchers to unemployed people.
They can take then exchange them for food parcels at acharity, the preferred one being the Trussell Trust, a Christian organisation.
It is easy to see how the Big Society is creeping in,dispensing alms to the deserving poor who queue for their food parcels in themanner that Oliver Twist lined up for his gruel.
It also helpfully allows the government to sidestepresponsibility – we can blame the Big Society if there are not enough foodparcels to go round or if there is no food bank nearby.
Josh Fenton-Glynn, writing on the Labour List blog, makesthe valid point that the Trussell Trust has 65 centres in Britain, whereas theJobcentre network has 750.
He goes on to estimate that Iain Duncan Smith’s scheme wouldmake a substantive difference to just 10% of Jobcentre users.
Of course, what would genuinely make a difference is a raisein benefits, but the coalition is more intent on reducing them in the vain hopethat the Big Society will dip into its rapidly emptying pockets.
As someone whose paunch betrays his love of food, I aminterested in what would be contained in the parcels. Would they form theso-called five-a-day fruit and veg diet? Or would the parcels contain cheapjunk to “tide you over”, the false friends of food production?
Moreover, would the temptation be to sell on some of thefood parcels, or even the vouchers themselves, ushering in a black market similarto the one that took hold during post-war rationing?
Too many questions, too many doubts.
One more question, though: what would Charles Dickens have made of this?