Here’s what the BBC ‘forgot’ to mention about the latest DWP scandal

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Tracy Keeling

The BBC News website covered the latest food bank use figures on 24 April. But in its online article, the organisation ‘forgot’ to mention one of the most important details about the revelations.

And it’s the aspect that truly names and shames the British government.

Beyond the shadow of a doubt

Food bank network the Trussell Trust has released its annual figures. It provided a record 1,332,952 three-day emergency food supplies to people in hardship. 484,026 of these three day supplies were for children.

The figures show an overall increase of 13% on last year. But there was a much bigger increase in some areas of the country. In the areas where the Department for Work and Pensions’ (DWP) Universal Credit has been in place for a year or more, the increase was a massive 52%. So in places that are subject to the DWP’s flagship benefit reform, the use of food banks is four times higher than in the rest of the country.

This shocking statistic featured in the Guardian‘s coverage of the figures. Sky News also covered it. But the BBC omitted it from its online news story on the topic. It mentioned the trust’s claim that, overall, Universal Credit is contributing to the rise in food bank use. It also included the DWP’s denial that the increase in food bank usage was down to any one cause. But it neglected to use the damning figure in its online story.

The figure is arguably one of the most important details of the trust’s report. Because it suggests that the government’s reforms are having a seriously detrimental impact on people. And that the government’s past claim, that Universal Credit would not lead to a rise in food bank use, is categorically wrong.

In response to a request for comment, a BBC spokesperson told The Canary:

The BBC reports news in a fair and impartial manner.

Excuses, excuses

The DWP effectively dismissed the trust’s findings. It said the figures were based on a “small self-selecting sample” that happened before changes to Universal Credit came into effect. MPs pressured the government into making changes to Universal Credit in November 2017. These included reducing claimants’ wait for their first payment from six weeks to five.

But the Trussell Trust released a report titled Left Behind: Is Universal Credit truly universal? alongside the annual figures. And it found numerous flaws in the Universal Credit system as a whole. Based on a sample [pdf, p2] of 284 people, the report identified that:

  • 63% [pdf, p5] of claimants received no statutory support during the wait for their first payment.
  • A mere 8% [pdf, p5] of claimants say Universal Credit covers their cost of living.
  • Claimants cited poor administration as a major concern. Not only were 35% [pdf, p5] of those surveyed waiting for longer than six weeks for payment (prior to the government reducing the wait to five weeks) but 30% [pdf, p5] experienced underpayment. One third of people said they encountered poor communication too.

Tried and tested

Clearly, the government’s benefit reforms are failing. They are failing the people who depend on this support to eat. And thousands of children are suffering as a result.

That appears to be what this discrepancy between food bank use in Universal Credit areas and the rest of the country shows. Not that people would know that, however, from heading over to the BBC News website.

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Featured image via BBC News/Wikimedia

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