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The voice of Scotland’s vibrant voluntary sector

Published by Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

TFN is published by the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, Mansfield Traquair Centre, 15 Mansfield Place, Edinburgh, EH3 6BB. The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) is a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation. Registration number SC003558.

More people turning to charities for support

This news post is about 10 years old

Charities have told MSPs they believe there is a direct link between benefits cuts and growing use of foodbanks.

Thousands of people are turning to third sector groups for help following changes to the benefits system, MSPs in Holyrood's Welfare Reform Committee have been told.

MSPs were told that the growing use of foodbanks as well as increases in the numbers of people seeking advice for debt from organisations such as Citizens Advice Bureaux were inextricably linked to Westminster’s welfare reform agenda.

Charities running foodbanks had witnessed huge increases in those seeking their help, the committee heard.

We have got strong evidence of the impact of welfare reform on the usage of foodbanks - Dave Simmers

Jo Roberts, of Community Food Moray, said the organisation saw around 13 cases each month before April 2013.

This grew to 59 after the introduction of welfare reforms with the charity recording 301 cases this February.

"The main issue people are presenting with is welfare and benefit problems. The biggest reason is welfare sanctions," Roberts said.

The UK government has argued that food banks themselves are helping to increase the demand by offering free food.

However Denis Curran, chairman of East Kilbride-based Loaves and Fishes, a charity which provides food parcels, said people were "walking three or four miles with children" to attend foodbanks.

And SNP MSP Annabelle Ewing said she had met someone who walked around 12 miles from Ballingry to Dunfermline to access a service.

Dave Simmers, chief executive of Community Food Initiatives North East, called for more research into the scale of the issue.

He said: "Anecdotally we have got strong evidence of the impact of welfare reform on the usage of food banks, but undoubtedly there is a need to back that up with independent research."

The charities were giving evidence to the Welfare Reform Committee as part of its investigation into food banks. MSPs also heard submissions from the Red Cross and the Trussell Trust.