HUNGER: 200,000 food bank parcels a year for starving Scots

Trussell Trust figures show its Scottish network provided more than 197,000 food parcels to people facing financial hardship …

Labour MSP Jackie Baillie visiting a food bank in her Dumbarton constituency.

By Lucy Ashton

Food banks have provided almost 200,000 parcels to people across Scotland in the past 12 months, with a leading charity warning demand will soon increase exponentially.

Trussell Trust figures show its Scottish network provided more than 197,000 food parcels to people facing financial hardship across the country from April 1 last year to March 21 this year.

More than 70,000 parcels were provided for children in that same period.

Scottish Labour equalities spokesperson Paul O’Kane, pictured right,  said: “These horrendous figures go to show that Scotland is now facing a humanitarian crisis that is hitting the most vulnerable hardest. 

“It is all too clear that the Tory-made cost of living crisis is fanning the flames of food poverty and insecurity. 

“That more and more families are being forced to food banks is simply disgraceful and is a shameful indictment on both our governments. 

“Only Labour has a plan to implement a meaningful windfall tax on oil and gas giants to bring bills down and act to put more money in people’s pockets. 

“It’s time that the SNP and Tory governments put the proxy wars to one side and focussed on helping those most in need.”

The charity said it is witnessing signs of an accelerating crisis across Scotland following the £20-a-week cut to Universal Credit last year and the soaring rise in living costs that people are facing.

Trussell’s figures show that the need for emergency food across the charity’s network has decreased in comparison to the same period in 2019/20 – 17 per cent lower.

Significant numbers of people were helped in the last year by other food aid providers and community-based groups which emerged during the pandemic.

However, the charity warned the data remains significantly higher (31 per cent) when compared to the same period five years ago.

It also warned the figures do not yet reflect the impact of the energy price cap which rose this month.

Volunteers who provide meals at St Augustine’s Scottish Episcopal Church in Dumbarton.

The charity has urged UK, Scottish and local governments to take more action to prevent more families being forced to the doors of food banks.

With trust research showing that more than one in three (36%) people on Universal Credit in Scotland are already skipping meals, the charity warned that people cannot afford to wait any longer for support.

As a first step, Trussell is calling for the UK Government to, as a bare minimum, increase all benefits payments by at least 7%, so more people are able to afford the essentials we all need in life to get by.

The charity has also urged the Scottish Government to do more to support people, including doubling the Scottish Child Payment to £40 a week and providing enough funding to the Scottish Welfare Fund to meet demand for help in a crisis.

It also highlighted that the Scottish Government is expected to publish a national plan to end the need for food banks in Scotland in the autumn and is calling on local government to commit to develop an action plan to end the need for food banks as local elections fast approach.

One man on Universal Credit told the charity: “It’s so disheartening to think that I’m struggling to pay for the essentials and put food on the table, through no fault of my own.

“It’s causing me ongoing stress to feel like I’m never getting to the end of it. It’s overwhelming and really drags me down.”

Despite the significant numbers of food aid providers in Scotland, which have been meeting increased demand, the need for emergency food in the Trust’s Scottish network has accelerated throughout the second half of the year, the charity said.

Polly Jones, head of Scotland at the Trussell Trust, said: “We should all be free from hunger. No-one should be pushed deeper into poverty without enough money for the things we all need.

“And yet people are telling us they’re skipping meals to feed their children and turning off the heating so they can afford internet access for their kids to do their homework.”

She added: “But there is still time for governments at every level to do the right thing, and ensure that people at the sharpest end of the crisis are able to afford the essentials we all need in life.

“That’s why we are urging the UK government to make benefits realistic for the times we face, and calling on the Scottish Government to use its powers to do all it can to support people on the lowest incomes.”

Social Justice Secretary Shona Robison said the Scottish Government has taken “significant action” to support people, including the introduction of the Scottish Child Payment, which doubled to £20 per week this month.

Minister Shona Robison says the Scottish Government is taking action.

She said: “We will also continue to promote a cash-first approach so that people can access food and other essentials with dignity and choice.

“As we have previously stated, we are also investing £770 million this year to tackle the cost-of-living pressures, including Scottish social security payments that are not available elsewhere in the UK, and mitigating the bedroom tax.”

She said while there has been a second year-on-year reduction in Trussell Trust food parcels in Scotland, “there is more to do to ensure that no-one has to go hungry or rely on charity to eat”.

“The UK Government must show the same level of ambition and take urgent action to address the cost-of-living crisis and provide adequate to support to households in need,” she added.

A UK Government spokesperson said: “We recognise the pressures on the cost of living and we are doing what we can to help, including spending £22 billion across the next financial year to support people with energy bills and cut fuel duty.”

“For the hardest hit, we’re putting an average of £1,000 more per year into the pockets of working families on Universal Credit, have also boosted the minimum wage by more than £1,000 a year for full-time workers and our Household Support Fund is there to help with the cost of everyday essentials.”

Top picture: Volunteers working hard unloading food to provide parcels at St Augustine’s Church in Dumbarton.

One comment

  1. You should really laugh but it ain’t no laughing matter.

    Food banks, fuel poverty, an underfunded healthcare service, rip roaring inflation, an increasing UK trade deficit, a weakened pound, and the Bank of England’s chief economist telling us all that we have to accept getting poorer.

    And all the while poor Jock lives in a country that is many many more times self sufficient in oil, gas, renewable energy. Indeed a recent statement by the Alba MP kenny MacAskill revealed that at today;s prices the renewable energy sector in Scotland will have produced £ of revenue. And that of course excludes oil, gas, whisky, forestry, fishing, and quarry materials.

    Anyway, what gives Jock a right to the bountiful benefits of his country’s resources. Poverty is our birthright it seems.

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