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The voice of Scotland’s vibrant voluntary sector

Published by Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

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Foodbank crisis accelerates as welfare system fails more families, says CAS

This news post is about 10 years old

The growing need for foodbanks is a “crisis” that needs to be addressed urgently according to Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS).

Last month its network of Citizens Advice Bureaux reported its busiest month to date with over 400 people requesting referral for a crisis food parcel.

At the same time major foodbank charity the Trussell Trust reported a four-fold increase in demand for its services over the past year.

Since April 2013 it has provided almost 50,000 people with food, and in the immediate six months following the introduction of the bedroom tax in April 2013 it provided parcels to 23,000 Scots, compared to just 4,021 in the same period in 2012.

Keith Dryburgh, policy manager at CAS said although he was pleased organisations like the Trussell Trust are able to help, food parcels do not address the underlying problem of poverty, and should not be seen as a long-term solution to it.

“It used to be quite rare for Scottish Citizens Advice Bureaux (CAB) advisers to see people who were so poor that they literally couldn’t afford to eat that day,” Dryburgh added.

“Sadly, over the last few years it has become increasingly common. The reasons behind this are the recession and the drastic changes that have been made to the benefits system.

People should not need to go to a CAB or a foodbank because they have no money

“The UK government regularly says that people who need help will get it from the welfare system, but it’s clear that in practice this isn’t always the case.

“People should not need to go to a CAB or a foodbank because they have no money, and yet this is what CAB advisers see every week.”

Nearly one in three of CAS’ foodbank referrals are because the person’s benefit has been delayed.

A further 22% have been sanctioned by the Jobcentre, 14% have had their benefit re-assessed, and 7% have been hit by the bedroom tax.

Last week a debate was called in the Scottish Parliament by SNP MSP Stuart McMillan to discuss the increasing reliance on foodbanks.

McMillan told parliament changes to benefits, rises in energy costs and static incomes have contributed to such a large increase in the need for such aid.

The debate was attended by 16 MSPs, who debated for just over an hour, though McMillan expressed his disappoint at no Conservative or Liberal Democrat MSPs attending.

He added: “In 21st century Scotland, it is ridiculous that anyone should suffer from food poverty.

“The UK government’s welfare cuts have thrown some of the most vulnerable people in Scotland into poverty.

“However, it is not just those who are unemployed who are suffering.

“Growing numbers of people who rely on foodbanks are in work, demonstrating the problems caused by underemployment and low pay.”

Afterwards, Ewan Gurr, Scotland development officer at the Trussell Trust, said he hoped the debate would lead to new ideas being found to address the underlying causes of poverty.

He told TFN: “We commend the fact the Scottish Government is considering the issue of food poverty.

“We consider that a good thing as it shows MSPs are clearly concerned and they are looking to raise the issue.

“Stuart McMillan has brought the issue to the table and I think what will come from that is further discussions that then lead to decisions.

“If politicians are engaging with people involved in food poverty then good policy is going to come out of that.”