Deidre Brock: Social Bite leads homeless agenda

Social Bite '“ the sandwich and coffee chain that has a social conscience underpinning its business model '“ has always been a bit special.

Josh Littlejohn, Social Bite co-founder, in front of the NestHouses at the Social Bite Village. Picture: PA

Allowing the pay-it-forward opportunity to its customers so they can pay for food that will go to someone who is homeless is an excellent idea.

Facilitating the generosity of ordinary people and helping those folk who have been down on their luck is inspirational. Employing folk who have had that hard time and giving them the opportunity to rebuild their lives is something special, too.

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Now they’re going one step further. The village that’s been opened in Granton that will house people escaping homelessness is a model that I hope will be successful. If it is successful and it’s helping people back into settled lives I hope it’s copied elsewhere. Giving people a bit of hope and a hand up when they’re down on their luck is a contribution to society that should be applauded.

I work in politics where far too often we see people who need a bit of help being put down, characterised as scroungers, told that they are a burden on the state. There are voices on the other side, too, but successive UK Governments have cut benefits, stripped away the support that was available to people in need and damaged lives all over the place. To hear some good news like the news from Social Bite is refreshing, to say the least – it actually makes me feel good.

We all should be doing what we can to help people who need it. I know that my job is about that. It’s pleasing to see the new Scottish Social Security system will be putting people at the centre of its operations and that there will be a principled stand in favour of social security rather than a stripping of welfare but it’s not enough.

Too many parts of the welfare state remain in the hands of the UK Government and they’ll continue to be cut away as politicians down there play for votes by decrying poor people, disabled people and vulnerable people.

We need to do more to help and we need to get Holyrood supercharged with powers over the welfare state so it can do it. We’ve got a lot of work to do and there will be many more words spoken and written, lots more debate and plenty more disappointment before we get there so let’s hear it for Social Bite.

While we politicians drag the agenda slowly around to where it should have been all along and while we try to make a difference, I think we should take some time to thank people who are actually making a difference. Well done Josh Littlejohn.

n Deidre Brock is SNP MP for Edinburgh North and Leith