Foodbank use soars in Scotland

7 November 2017, 06:44

Foodbank

Foodbank use across Scotland has risen by 20% to a record level in the last year, according to charity figures.

The Trussell Trust said 76,764 three-day emergency food supplies were given to people in need in the first half of 2017, with a third going to children.

The figures reflect volume rather than the number of unique users with some people being referred to foodbanks a number of times, the Trust said.

It has called for urgent action to improve Universal Credit (UC) or foodbanks could struggle to meet demand this winter.

Across the UK, the Trust said foodbanks in areas in which UC has been rolled out for at least six months have seen a 30% increase in demand compared to the year before.

The charity welcomed measures taken by the Scottish Government to make UC payments more flexible but said more needs to be done at Westminster to improve the administration of the benefit.

Research found that issues with a benefit payment remain the biggest cause of referral to a foodbank across Scotland, accounting for 42%.

Tony Graham, Scotland director at The Trussell Trust, said: "In the first half of this year a record number of people facing destitution and hunger have been referred to The Trussell Trust foodbank network in Scotland.

"Foodbanks will be working hard to provide dignified, non-judgmental support to people but we are concerned that the ongoing impact of welfare reform - especially UC roll-out - combined with increased demand we traditionally see over winter will leave foodbanks struggling to feed everyone that comes through the doors."

He added: "Foodbanks in Scotland are already acting as an unofficial charity safety net, attempting to catch people let down by a welfare system that should be there for vulnerable Scottish families when they need it most.

"Not only would it be morally wrong for us to become a de facto arm of the welfare state - if welfare reform and UC roll-out continues unchanged, we simply would not be able to catch everyone that falls."

The Trust is appealing for more donations to foodbanks to help those in need.

A Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) spokesman said: ''The reasons for foodbank use are wide and complex, and for this report to link it to any one issue would be misleading.

''We're clear that advance payments are widely available from the start of anyone's UC claim, and urgent cases are fast-tracked so no-one should be without funds.

''We know the majority of UC claimants are confident in managing their money. Budgeting support and direct rent payments to landlords are also available to those who need them.''

Scottish Labour's DWP spokesperson, Hugh Gaffney, said the figures are "appalling".

"This situation is a reflection of the low-wage economy that the Tories have presided over, with far too many people in work yet unable to make ends meet," Mr Gaffney added.

"Politicians must take responsibility for this sorry state of affairs and work to understand how we can solve the problem. The Tories must start by listening to the recommendations of the Trussell Trust and reducing the six-week wait for Universal Credit.

"And this must surely serve as a wake-up call to the SNP government to start using the powers of the Scottish Parliament to put an end to austerity and tackle child poverty."

Minister for Social Security Jeane Freeman said: "The impact of UK welfare cuts alongside rising prices are causing serious financial hardship and misery for many people.

"In addition, the chaotic introduction and fundamental flaws of Universal Credit will make the situation even worse for people across the country.

"That is why we have consistently called for an immediate halt to the roll out of Universal Credit until the problems are fixed, particularly the in-built minimum six-week delay in receiving a first payment, which needs to be urgently reduced to a maximum of four weeks."