Cost of living crisis: Communities rallying round those in need put government to shame – Christine Jardine

The use of the Trussell Trust’s 43 foodbanks in Scotland has gone up by a frightening 39 per cent since 2018

Arriving home is always special but when you are greeted by the Christmas lights on Princes Street as you leave Waverley, it can just bring that extra glow to your day. For these past few Christmases, that joy has been slightly undermined by the dual threat from Covid and the cost-of-living crisis.

And while the first has receded from our collective consciousness, the latter still plays a huge part in too many lives. There is possibly one glimmer of something hopeful that we may all have overlooked: the same community spirit which, although it was always there, Covid highlighted and gave new impetus to is supporting us through the cost-of-living crisis. But is it enough? Or do we deserve more from those responsible for our well-being?

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Recently, I have enjoyed a community lunch in Dalmeny, Christmas fayres in Corstorphine, Cramond and Blackhall, and taken part in the opening day of the Community Fridge at Queensferry Parish Church. Of course, there have been similar events all across the country, and it’s the feeling of communal caring that I find so hopeful. So timely.

Because this winter, the combination of the cost-of-living crisis, energy prices and the lingering effects of that pandemic have created a need for support that is greater than anything our charities and third sector have faced in recent years. Figures released by the Trussell Trust, which has 43 foodbanks in Scotland, show their usage here has increased by a frightening 39 per cent since 2018.

The organisation distributed close to 130,000 emergency food parcels in Scotland between April and September of this year. Eight per cent of our students are using foodbanks. Recently I visited one of their distribution centres in Edinburgh where they told me that they are now getting both more donations than ever before, but also more people coming to them for help.

Very often the families coming to them now are the same people who have donated in the past. We see evidence of that same trend in my constituency office every week where people come to us struggling to overcome the challenges posed not just by the current economic climate but the housing crisis facing the city.

We have had the steepest rise in private rents of any area of the UK, and the city council simply does not have the housing stock it needs. Alongside my team, we are doing our best to help everyone who comes to us. But I find it constantly infuriating that, in one of the richest countries in the world, so many people are being forced to turn to foodbanks or find themselves homeless.

We need both of our governments to recognise that, for many people, this winter will be a cold one, with donated food, at best. At worst, it will be spent in temporary accommodation or sleeping rough.

Sitting with the community in Dalmeny over some lunch, and enjoying the carol singers from Queensferry Primary, I was moved by all the good I have seen people do for each other in recent years. While uplifting, it’s disappointing that they have had to. We should all have been able to rely on our government for help. Perhaps next year.

Christine Jardine is the Scottish Liberal Democrat MP for Edinburgh West



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