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Scotland’s poor getting poorer as foodbank use soars

This news post is about 6 years old

Figures show changes to the way benefits are paid are leading to destitution for many Scots

Foodbank use in Scotland has soared to record levels as families struggle with swingeing welfare cuts.

Figures released by the Trussell Trust show a 17% increase in people relying on foodbanks to subsist - against a UK average rise of 13%.

Campaigners have warned Scotland’s situation is “critical” and are now calling on the UK government to urgently halt universal credit – the new benefits payment system that has been characterised by delays and failures and has resulted in many claimants becoming financially worse off.

Data shows 170,625 three-day emergency food supplies handed to those in crisis – of which 55,038 went to children.

Of those referred to foodbanks, over a third said they had waited longer than six weeks for their first universal credit payment while 30% received an underpayment.

Tony Graham, director of Scotland at The Trussell Trust, said: “We expect no one should be left hungry or destitute. Illness, disability, family breakdown or the loss of a job could happen to any of us and we owe it to each other to ensure sufficient financial support is in place when we need it most. Universal credit is the future of our benefits system.

“It’s vital we get it right and ensure levels of payment protect everyone, particularly groups of people we know are already more likely to need a food bank – disabled people dealing with an illness, families with children and single parents.”

Data shows that benefit delays and sanctions remain the biggest reason for people being referred. Some of those referred are disabled, are sick, suffer mental disabilities and severe social disadvantage, or are vulnerable in other ways.

The Trussell Trust wants the UK government unfreeze and uprate Child Benefit in line with inflation rates, guarantee that work pays for parents receiving universal credit, and ensure access to free school meals for all parents who need them.

Emma Revie, chief executive, said: “As a nation we value justice and compassion, particularly for our children. But this research shows families across Britain are locked in poverty, with income so low they are unable even to afford to put food on their children’s plates.”

Campaign group Menu for Change - a three-year project managed by Oxfam Scotland, Poverty Alliance, Child Poverty Action Group Scotland and Nourish Scotland – called for immediate action.

Polly Jones, project manager, said: “It’s clear the UK government should halt the roll out of Universal Credit until fundamental flaws in the system are addressed.

Families across Britain are locked in poverty - Emma Revie

“In the meantime, the Scottish Government should do everything it can to alleviate the misery faced by claimants here, by maximising uptake of the flexibilities being applied to Universal Credit in Scotland, committing enough resources for councils to administer the Scottish Welfare Fund and investing in advice and support services.”

A Department of work and pensions spokesperson said: "The best way to help a person pay their rent is to help them find work, and universal credit is succeeding at getting people into work faster, and helping them stay in work longer.

"Our research shows that many people join Universal Credit with pre-existing arrears, but the proportion of people with arrears falls by a third after four months.

"If I did get work I'd still need to come to the foodbank"

Former warehouse supervisor Paul Burness from Broughty Ferry says the jobs on offer just don't pay. And it's forcing many to rely on foodbanks.

"For 22 years I held down work until I was made redundant 18 months ago.I was on a salary of £30,000 and my wife worked too. But after I lost my job I couldn't pay the bills, and couldn't afford the things I became used to buying. I've two children and the biggest worry was feeding and clothing them. The Jobcentre referred me to the local foodbank in Dundee and I have come to rely on it. Without that help something would have to give - probably the electricity and gas bills.

"It's a vicious circle. I'd work doing anything but many jobs just don't pay. If I did get work I'd still need to come to the foodbank - I don't think minimum wage work is enough to run a house and family.

"I'm not complaining; it is no-one's fault other than my own. But the reality for me is I can't get work that pays to feed my family. That's why I need to rely on charity, something for which am not proud."