After I had read this piece in the Observer last night, I put it together with something a friend had told me the day before. The friend had been helping to set things up for Christmas at her local church, when a woman came in looking for "the food bank". She was very pale and looked ill and exhausted. There isn't a food bank in that part of the city, so my friend volunteered to drive her home. In the process she learned something of her story. It was the usual thing - very long delays and complications in getting her benefits through. That's one of the problems which the Trussell Trust want to discuss with Iain Duncan Smith. But he's refusing to meet them, accusing them of publicity-seeking, scaremongering and having a clear political agenda. Not, of course, like the political agenda which led the UK government to turn down a £22m grant from the European Aid for the Most Deprived fund specifically for food banks.
I am no longer a Christian by most people's definition; but I still regard Christian values, and the teachings of the gospels, as a pretty good guide for living. Iain Duncan Smith does profess to be a Christian - a Roman Catholic. Maybe he went to Mass this morning. So I wonder how he squares that supposed faith with his actions and attitudes. Oh yes, I know that terrible things have been done in the name of Christianity, and of every religion. He's hardly unique. But the psychology is fascinating. I could cite any number of passages in the gospels which should give him pause for thought. How about Matthew chapter 25, starting at verse 34? Or if you prefer one of the Old Testament prophets, there's a piece of advice in Micah, 6 v.8. In the old translation it says, "What doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God." The three qualities - justice, mercy and humility - seem entirely lacking in IDS.
When IDS or the DWP mess up, the cost falls on the hapless benefit claimant and / or taxpayer. Hugh Muir in the Guardian returns to the story of the botched procurement process for the Universal Jobmatch site. He originally reported back in March this year that there were three bidders at the start, Steria Ltd, Methods and Monster Worldwide. Steria challenged the evaluation process, so it was run again, but Methods started legal procedures and were paid off. The DWP wouldn't say how much it had cost to stay out of court. But now, with the DWP annual report published (very late) there's a clue. There's a payment of £950,000 "to compensate a supplier for reasonable costs incurred in connection with procurement activities".