Campaigners call on governments to address rising poverty levels
Demand for emergency food packages has more than doubled during lockdown, new figures have revealed.
According to data gathered by the Independent Food Aid Network (IFAN), the number of parcels distributed across Scotland in July was 108% higher than during the same month last year.
IFAN found that more than 182,000 emergency packages were given out by 70 independent food banks in 20 council areas between February and July, and warned that the crisis will grow when the UK Government’s furlough scheme comes to an end.
Campaigners are now calling on the UK and Scottish governments to “do all they can” to address the rising levels of poverty which cause families to turn to food banks.
IFAN wants to see the £20 uplift to Universal Credit made permanent and extended to legacy benefits, while also removing the benefit cap and ending the five-week wait for first payment.
It is also calling for an end to the two-child limit and the oft-criticised sanctions system, as well as permanently suspending the “no recourse to public funds” status.
The Scottish Government is urged to do more to promote the Scottish Welfare Fund to help low-income families cover urgent living costs, and also to offer immediate financial support to anyone who will be eligible for the Scottish Child Payment when it comes into force in February 2021.
Sabine Goodwin, IFAN coordinator, said: “Independent food banks in Scotland have seen a doubling in need for their support. The writing is on the wall. Even more people are going to be thrown into financial crisis in the coming months, and food banks cannot continue to pick up the pieces of a broken benefit system and insufficient wages.
“The Scottish and UK Governments as well as local authorities must do all they can to prioritise access to ‘cash first’ solutions for people unable to afford food.”
Chelsea Marshall, IFAN senior project officer, added: "Food banks have been working throughout the pandemic to support people who are unable to afford the food that they need. The people represented in this report include those who were already struggling on low wages and insufficient benefits and many more who have suddenly lost income and are now unable to meet the cost of living.
“We welcome the Scottish Government's commitment to a ‘cash first’ approach to food insecurity, but food banks are today calling for practical action to make sure people don’t keep falling through cracks of the social security system.”