Benefits & Foodbank Link "Irrefutable"

17 March 2015, 05:00

A Holyrood committee has sent "irrefutable evidence'' of a link between welfare reform and an increase in the use of food banks to Scotland Office Minister David Mundell.

The Welfare Reform Committee has sent Mr Mundell a file including details of benefit recipients who have been sanctioned and individuals whose benefit payments have been delayed, resulting in them turning to food banks.

Appearing at the committee last month, the Conservative MP called on MSPs to provide evidence that an increase in food bank use was as a direct result of welfare reform after expressing doubt that this was the case.

Committee convener Michael McMahon said: "The Welfare Reform Committee has amassed a growing volume of evidence documenting the impact of welfare reform on Scotland's communities.

"We have now sent a further batch of evidence to Mr Mundell and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

"However, what we discovered during the course of our enquiries has surprised and saddened us.

"It is a sad state of affairs when vulnerable people are frightened to engage with the very system that is supposed to offer them support and care.''

Deputy convener Clare Adamson said: "UK Government ministers continue to turn a blind eye to the appalling impact that their welfare policies are having on some of the most vulnerable members of society.

"We have now provided Mr Mundell and the DWP with irrefutable evidence that benefits cuts and sanctions are driving people in ever-greater numbers to seek the assistance of food banks and other charities.''

Mr Mundell is one of a number of Tory politicians to doubt the link between welfare reforms and the increase in food banks.

Employment Minister Esther McVey, who has refused to give evidence to the committee, has previously stated that "the rise in food banks predates most of the welfare reforms this Government has put in place''.

Figures from the Trussell Trust charity suggest there was a 400% rise in the number of people seeking food bank help between 2012/13 and 2013/14.