A FRESH initiative is to be launched next week to try to combat a growing dependency on food bank hand outs by poverty stricken families in oil-rich Aberdeen.
Demands for food parcels from various charities operating in the oil capital of Europe have soared this year, despite the city’s recession busting prosperity.
And the city council revealed today there is now a developing dependency by some people on food banks in light of changes to the benefits system and to the so-called bedroom tax.
Next Monday the local authority will officially launch a new Food Banks Partnership, aimed at coordinating food banks across the city. The initiative will include the introduction of a new swipe card system for food bank users which will identify those most frequently using the service and who may require additional support.
Earlier this year one of the city’s leading charities, Instant Neighbour, revealed that the organisation had already handed out more food parcels in the first five months of 2013 than the whole of last year.
A city council spokesman said: “The Food Banks Partnership aims to coordinate food banks in the city while guiding users towards services that can prevent them becoming reliant on these resources.
“It was established in light of recent changes to the benefit system, most notably the under-occupancy charge, which has resulted in many families and individuals in the north east of Scotland struggling to cope with even a small loss of income.
“The use of food banks has been one of the responses to address these changes, but local charities are growing concerned about people becoming dependent on them.”
He continued: “The Food Banks Partnership wants to help users reduce their reliance on these resources so they can move away from poverty all together. This will partly be achieved through the use of a swipe card which will be distributed to food bank users who will use the cards to access food bank services in the city. The swipe cards will help assess the frequency people are using food banks and identify those who may require additional support.”
Councillor George Adam, Aberdeen’s Lord Provost, will formally launch the partnership at the Town and County Hall on Monday. He said: “Many people are experiencing hardship for a number of reasons so the establishment of the Food Banks Partnership is to be welcomed. This innovative and proactive approach will maximise the help available to vulnerable individuals and families while offering access to support and services to address their various needs and issues.
“The help on offer includes health and wellbeing advice, financial management and budgeting guidance and education. In turn, we hope this will help people build confidence, skills and, where appropriate, help them gain meaningful employment.”
He added: “The overall aim is to prevent dependency and reliance on food banks and encourage people to view these purely as emergency resources - something the Food Banks Partnership is well-equipped to achieve.”
Dave Simmers, chief executive of the social enterprise company Community Food Initiatives North East, said: “There will always be people who need additional help and support. However, it is important to act responsibly and work with each individual to help them build resilience for the future.
“Food banks can provide a vital point of contact for those who may not be in touch with services and we can tap into that to help people change their circumstances and hopefully prevent them from developing a dependency on these resources.”
He added: “The use of the swipe cards will help us gather information and answer some important questions about who is using food banks and why. For example, do more people use food banks on a Friday or at the end of the month? How frequently are they used? Why are they being used in the first place? Answering these questions will allow us to identify the necessary help and support an individual might require.”
A spokesman for Instant Neighbour said: “A lot of people are surprised when they are told that people in Aberdeen – a rich city which has weathered the nation’s economic problems better than most – are reliant on food parcels. It is almost inconceivable that people are without the basic necessities of living here, yet that is the reality for a large number of this city’s residents.”