As few as 61 top civil servants working for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), who were charged with implementing widespread and draconion cuts to vital social security benefits, have been rewarded with as much as £17.5k each in bonuses while low-income households struggle to put food on the table.
The Daily Record reports that the top DWP chiefs received awards averaging £9,600 each, while less senior staff were gifted handouts of around £500. But some were given much much more.
The news comes as figures from the UK’s largest food bank network, the Trussell Trust, reveal that a record 1.6m food bank parcels were given to people in desperate need over the last year, including more than half a million children from low-income households.
SNP MSP Shona Robison said: “People will rightly be asking questions about where the DWP’s priorities lie.
“They scrapped the £10 bonus for people struggling over Christmas and inflicted cuts on low-income families across Scotland but are rewarding senior staff with huge bonuses.
“The Tory Government is letting the most vulnerable people in society down first with a system which overwhelmingly benefits the rich while low-income families are forced to choose between paying their rent and feeding their children.”
Bonuses have been awarded to DWP staff despite recent figures showing that a record number of sick and disabled people are successfuly challenging cruel decisions to cut or stop benefit payments at tribunal (almost three in four).
Between April 2018 and March 2019, 1,583,668 three-day emergency food supplies were given to people facing poverty and hunger. Of these, 577,618 went to children. This represents a 18.8% increase on the previous year.
The Trussell Trust’s chief executive Emma Revie said the statistics show that “more people struggling to eat because they simply cannot afford food”.
“Our benefits system is supposed to protect us all from being swept into poverty”, she said.
“Universal Credit should be part of the solution but currently the five week wait is leaving many without enough money to cover the basics.”
She added that “it’s unacceptable that anyone should have to use a food bank in the first place”, while warning that this upward trend in foodbank usage it likely to continue as long as the UK Government faik to accept the rising poverty crisis.
She said: “Ultimately, it’s unacceptable that anyone should have to use a food bank in the first place. No charity can replace the dignity of having financial security.
“That’s why in the long-term, we’re urging the Government to ensure benefit payments reflect the true cost of living and work is secure, paying the real Living Wage, to help ensure we are all anchored from poverty.”
Shirley, a former food bank user, said: “No one should need to ever use a food bank but sometimes things happen to people that are completely out of their control like an illness, disability, family breakdown or the loss of a job.
“I was thrown into an unknown world. I didn’t have any money for three months while waiting for Universal Credit.
“I couldn’t pay my rent and I had to work out whether to eat in the morning or the afternoon because I didn’t have enough money for the basics.”