Freud: Foodbank dunce – or devil?



Lord Freud, the millionaire government minister and former investment banker, has outraged many in the House of Lords and poverty campaigners by claiming that there is no link between the government’s benefit reforms and the massive increase in the number of people needing help from Foodbanks.

Freud’s statements beggar belief. For example,

The provision of food-bank support has grown from provision to 70,000 individuals two years ago to 347,000. All that predates the reforms. As I say, there is no evidence of a causal link.


Food from a food bank—the supply—is a free good, and by definition there is an almost infinite demand for a free good.

In other words, the massive rise – from around 40,000 to almost 350,000 during just two years of this government – isn’t because of an increase in the number of people a crisis of poverty. No, it’s just because people like getting free food.

Freud’s comments display a staggering ignorance – or an equally staggering combination of incredible arrogance and mindblowing dishonesty.

We all like free stuff?

Not just anyone can turn up and take free food from a Foodbank. It’s not a free-for-all giveaway where those who feel like it can wander in and pick up free stuff.

To obtain food from a foodbank, you have to be referred to one by people who are in a position to assess whether your need is genuine – social workers, citizens advice bureaus, probation officers, police. Even the occasional Jobcentre Plus worker – usually off the record and in their spare time, as contrary to the question posed to Freud in the Lords, Jobcentres are not encouraged to issue Foodbank vouchers. For example, JCP workers in Middlesbrough often phone the local Foodbank on their own time to ask for help for people that they know the system has failed – because of benefit delays or (and this is crucial) sanction.

Anyone who runs, works in or visits a Foodbank as an observer will tell you that those attending them do not stroll in with the smile of someone who’s ‘lucked into’ getting something for nothing. They arrive sheepishly, broken and humiliated to have to be, effectively, begging for food and admitting that they can’t meet even such a basic need for their families without the help of strangers. A key skill for Foodbank volunteers is to be able to reassure people that it’s ok – to reaffirm their humanity and dignity.

This is not some charitable ‘supermarket sweep’ – it’s the last resort of the desperate. And without question, it is beyond ludicrous to even suggest that the fact that the exponential rise in the number of desperate people coincides with our lamentable excuse for a current shows ‘no causal link’.

The restricted access to Foodbank assistance, and the loss of dignity entailed in accepting it, is no accident – and only a fool or a liar would suggest it is.

So is he a fool or a liar? A dunce – or a devil?

Predates the ‘reforms’?

Freud claimed that the rise in Foodbank numbers – to almost 350,000 – happened before the government’s ‘reforms’, and that therefore there could be no ‘causal link’ between the two. But this is simply nonsense.

The reforms to which he refers took place on 1 April this year, with the introduction of the wicked bedroom tax and swingeing cuts to housing benefit and council tax benefit entitlements, while another massive change is about to be rolled out with the introduction of Universal Credit (UC). But these are anything but the first changes made.

In June 2010, less than a month after the General Election, George Osborne announced cuts of £11 billion to the welfare bill in his ’emergency budget’. 4 months later, in October, he announced a further cut of £7 billion. The bulk cuts may not have taken effect while Foodbank use rocketed, but their impact was still huge.

Local government funding

As soon as it took office, the government announced radical cuts to local government funding, with the pain concentrated in poor, Labour heartlands while wealthier Tory and marginal areas suffered only nominal changes. In December of the same year, Eric Pickles announced further deep cuts, and once again the poorest areas were hit hardest, with many of the most deprived suffering cuts of around 9%. This pattern has continued in every spending settlement since.

While these changes have not (until recently) directly affected benefits, councils have been forced to cut provisions and support in order to make ends meet – and these cuts have affected many of the most vulnerable.

The (Mount) Eiger Sanction?

But by far the most crucial change to welfare has come in via the back door – and has been in full and increasing effect since well before 1. April this year: benefit sanctions.

As I and others have reported previously, the number of people hit by sanctions has soared under this government, from 347,000 under the outgoing Labour government to 778,000 in the 12 months to October 2012. These sanctions, which can be issued summarily at the whim of a JCP adviser, come into effect instantaneously, depriving claimants of any income unless and until they are considered eligible for a ‘hardship payment’. Many are not.

Sanctions have become a mountain that dwarfs Mount Eiger’s 13,020 feet – and the number is clearly still increasing. The government delayed the release of the latest data, due out in May, indefinitely without giving any clear reasons.

But it’s not just the number of sanctions that has increased (and continues to). The length of sanctions has increased massively. Since October last year, the length of the minimum sanction increased from one week to four – and the maximum from 6 months to 3 years.

Remember, these penalties can be imposed on a whim – and take effect immediately. And that’s just the deliberate deprivation – many claimants ‘fall between the cracks’ for weeks at a time because of the increased complexity of the benefits regime and the different hurdles they have to overcome.

So, is Freud a dunce or a devil? As a former investment banker, he is clearly not short of brain matter. Any ordinary person with the will to check can find out what I’ve just presented to you – and as a government minister, this kind of information will be handed to Lord Freud on a plate (or more likely, a silver platter).

It’s beyond credence that Freud is ignorant of the truth. Which leaves only one alternative. He is well aware of the ‘causal link’ between the government’s many and brutal changes to the benefits programme and to the support available to disadvantaged people generally, usually in the most needy parts of the country.

Freud misled his fellow peers – quite deliberately, callously and cynically. His denial is completely implausible – but plainly he just doesn’t care, as long as it makes a soundbite.

But the most chilling aspect of his lie is the sliver of it that is true. What we have seen so far is nothing compared to what we will see now that the even more brutal and radical reforms are starting to kick in.

The same goes for the increase in the number of people needing help from Foodbanks. The rises so far will seem paltry compared to what’s about to happen, both in Foodbank attendances and in the numbers of desperate people cut off from the help any decent, civilised society should provide.

There is no ignorance on the part of Freud – and none on the part of his government colleagues. They need to remove their dunce’s caps – and polish their horns.

And if we have any sense, we’ll be on the streets as scale of the lie and of the brutalisation becomes even more apparent.


  1. Yet another yuppie who has not lived in the real world, obviously a mate/crony of Cameron, Clegg and Osbourne.

  2. It’s a valid question, but the answer is “it doesn’t matter a fuck”. His role is to mislead, and lying is totally within the bounds. He knows there will absolutely no consequence whatsoever.

    1. And he can easily be either – or both.

      As (someone-or-other on Labour’s side) said to IDS the other day across the floor of the house of ill-repute – “He has never gone hungry”.

  3. Reblogged this on Vox Political and commented:
    As someone who has been involved with foodbanks (on the sidelines, as a trustee of the citizens’ advice bureau), I can confirm that there are conditions that must be met before anybody may receive food from these organisations, and that those attending are indeed deeply humiliated to be, in effect, begging for support. There is quite clearly a direct causal link between the cuts imposed by the Coalition government since 2010, the increase in the severity of benefit sanctions, and the rise in foodbank use since that time.
    Once again, a minister in the Department for Work and Pensions has misled Parliament. Worse than that is the fact that this particular minister is a former adviser to the previous Labour government. Labour needs to take a hard look at its social security policies during the 13 years it was in government and – if it is returned to office in 2015 – prepare to undertake a root and branch re-ordering of the DWP, which now appears to be rotten to the core.

  4. The Baron is most definitely evil.And the timing of this announcement is also a callous and feeble example of government denial coming as it does immediately after the release of a scathing report by the Children’s Commissioner for England who says “as a State Party to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) the UK is obliged under international law to use the maximum extent of its available resources to fulfil children’s right to an adequate standard of living, to social security, health, education and other economic and social rights”.
    The report is called ” A Child Rights Impact Assessment of Budget Decisions: including the 2013 Budget, and the cumulative impact of tax-benefit reforms and reductions in spending on public services 2010 – 2015″ and must have been very uncomfortable reading for Fraud and Co. It makes a liar of Osborne when he said that higher income families were losing more than poorer families with some hard hitting statistics. It concludes that “the number of children living below a ‘minimum income standard’ is expected to rise by 400,000 children to 6.8 million children (around 52% of all children)”.
    After commissioning a report like this I think its likely the Children’s Commissioner will be putting pressure on government to live up to its obligations under international law. And judging by the Baron’s pathetic statement they don’t have anything in their arsenal except blatantly ridiculous assertions that its not their fault. If this is the best they can do then it seems to me they know they’re f*cked.

    1. The current Children’s Commissioner obviously is expecting to change jobs in the near future, if this report is made known internationally then the Prime Minister will just have them replaced.

  5. You only have to read his book, The Accidental Banker, to know that D Freud is no dunce, just a cynical attention grabber. Remember he started by advising James Purnell and New Labour, before taking the Tories’ bribe of a peerage and switching sides.

  6. AS always, RTd & put on FB. STEVE one of our best Generals against the COALITION.

  7. In my area a local trust has recruited an army of local volunteers who have been trained to act as advocates and support local people who have been hit by savage Public Spending cuts and Welfare Reform legislation. This is a brilliant initiative, but it is a disgrace that it is necessary.

    The same trust cannot cope with the demand for food parcels and the CAB has had their funding cut by government. Why?

    In war time people are galvanised into positive action and come together to support each against the enemy. But what do people do when their own government is hurting its own citizens and seemingly without any appreciation of the misery it has created?

    Are we slowly, but inevitably shifting towards the same slippery slope as Greece, where suicide rates have exploded due severe austerity measures?

    1. I’m afraid you’re right. Naomi Klein calls it “planned misery” – exploiting (and even manufacturing) crisis as an excuse for depriving the poorest.

  8. Don’t confuse causal link with correlation. Just because foodbank use has increased and correlates with cuts it doesn’t mean that there’s a causal link. Though I have to say, if he hasn’t found a causal link I suspect it’s because he hasn’t bothered looking.

  9. The man is a fool, but that is all he is guilty of being, To play the advocate and be fair on the Conservatives, they have never been able to manage the none privatised sector and they are simply incapable of addressing the needs of the poor. They are unimaginative, unprincipled and generally ignorant. Their world is different from ours, as a result they are completely out of touch.

    They do not see, do not care and are incapable of understanding, and this nature has never changed, nor ever will. They will always will be we the party of we are better off than the next person and that is how they behave. Conservatives are indeed driven and motivated, indeed but sadly they are also selfish, indolent and corrupt and I have no doubt, would at the stroke of a sword, decapitate their own, were it to benefit them to do so and it were legal

    That is Conservatism, they simply cannot see, nor do they care, other than for their own and this has been the case since the days of the Feudal age, nothing has changed.

    1. Probably.
      The lack of care and compassion let alone insight, is breathtaking.

      1. Most Likely Yes!
        What price do they put on humanity, they who have none?

  10. It strikes me that there are people like David Anthony Freud, or Baron Freud as he prefers to be known and Ian Duncan Smith and Baroness Neville-Jones (but I had better stop as the list is quite large) who are entirely irrational and illogical. They play at pretending to think and in that regard they are relatively good at the game. But a close inspection of their utterances soon reveals contradiction and nonsense. BUT – These people are in positions of power over other people. They destroy lives like vampires. They are, arguably, the very definition of evil. So what can one do about them? I would make some suggestion like “Shoot them in the head” but big brother might come and get me for being a terrorist and then they could lock me up without a trial so I won’t. But instead I will refer you to two little things which a guy called Jesus allegedly said some 2000 years ago [Mathew 23:27 (1611 King James Bible)] “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness.” and [Matthew 18:6 (1611 King James Bible)] “But who so shall offend one of these little ones which beleeve in me, it were better for him that a milstone were hanged about his necke, and that hee were drowned in the depth of the Sea.” Yeah I could buy that 🙂

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