An independent group of experts on food poverty has called on the Scottish Government to increase benefits rather than fund foodbanks
Government funding should be used to ensure people in poverty have more money rather than fund foodbanks, a group of experts has said.
Measures such a increasing child benefit by £5 a week and providing more funding to the Scottish Welfare Fund, which gives out crisis grants for families in an emergency, would be a more dignified answer to food poverty.
The Independent Short Life Working Group on Food Poverty, which included groups such as Child Poverty Action Group, the Trussell Trust and Oxfam, has called on the Scottish Government to carry out its recommendations, which it says would also provide a more sustainable solution to the problem.
Its report, Dignity: Ending Hunger Together in Scotland, advocates a move away from emergency food and calls for the government to use Scotland's devolved powers to ensure families in work are also not in poverty.
The report was published just days after new official figures showed over one in five children are still living in poverty – with two thirds of those are living in working families.
It called for the Scottish Government to use new social security powers to improve the value of social security by topping up child benefit by £5 per week and lifting 30,000 children out of poverty. The Scottish Government and local authorities should also prioritise investment in benefits advice and information services, while ensuring widespread use of the Scottish Welfare Fund as the first port of call for crisis support – and increasing funding for it if demand grows according.
This report cannot be allowed to gather dust or be side-tracked by wider events. The need is simply too urgent for far too many people. Jamie Livingston
Rev Dr Martin Johnstone, chair of the group and secretary of the Church of Scotland’s Church and Society Council, said: “The primary cause of the increase in foodbanks has been that people do not have enough money to feed themselves and their families
“Our report makes clear that we need to increase the amount of money for those who struggle most against poverty, such as by creating a more dignified social security system.
“At the heart of all our recommendations lies the core principle of dignity. People who do not have enough to eat must be treated justly and fairly. We need their wisdom and expertise to tackle food poverty together."
Jamie Livingstone, head of Oxfam Scotland, said: “With nearly one in five people in Scotland living in poverty, we need to put more money into people’s pockets including, critically, through an effective and adequate social security system but also by ensuring work provides a reliable route out of poverty.
“This report cannot be allowed to gather dust or be side-tracked by wider events. The need is simply too urgent for far too many people. Amid Scotland’s huge collective wealth, no-one should have insufficient income to buy food.”
Scottish Government communities secretary Angela Constance welcomed the report.
“No-one should be left hungry and unable to afford to feed their families in a country as prosperous as Scotland," she said.
“I thank the group for their work and for considering the issues that cause food poverty. UK Government welfare cuts and benefit sanctions have continually pushed more and more people into food poverty and increased the demand and reliance on emergency food provision in Scotland.
“Food poverty cannot be solved overnight, and this group has played an important role in looking at how we can best support people out of food poverty.
“We will consider the group’s recommendations in full and respond in due course.
"I look forward to taking action that will help reduce reliance on emergency food provision, tackle food poverty and create a fairer Scotland.”