Following the Mail’s article last week on the rise of “the new poor” and increasing numbers of people turning to foodbanks, the Department of Social Development (DSD) has revealed its intention to research “the demand for and the reasons for people visiting foodbanks”.
Whilst acknowledging that foodbanks are usually operated on a volunteer basis, DSD said it “is also working with the voluntary and community sector and has put in place a partnership model whereby foodbanks can ensure every individual and family presenting in need of food support is referred to the Social Security Agency for a full and confidential benefit entitlement check”.
“This assesses entitlement,” DSD explained, “not only to social security benefits, but to a wide range of additional government benefits, services and supports.
“In addition, foodbanks are offered a second layer of support - a named community outreach officer - who will work closely with staff and volunteers to ensure that anyone who needs further benefit advice or help with making a claim is given the support they need immediately, in their own homes where necessary.”
When asked if Stormont has the power to change the NI benefit system, DSD added: “Social security benefits are a devolved matter” and DSD “has full legal powers in respect of benefit entitlement and payment decisions.”