Scots using foodbanks up by six per cent

Ewan Gurr of Trussell Trust Scotland PICTURE: Angus McDougal
Ewan Gurr of Trussell Trust Scotland PICTURE: Angus McDougal
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The number of Scots using foodbanks has risen by six per cent, with benefit delays and low incomes the main causes, according to Trussell Trust figures released today.

The charity distributed 63,794 three-day supplies of emergency food between April and September 2016, compared to 60,458 during the same period in 2015.

However, nine local authorities saw a decrease in foodbank use, partly due to improved partnership working between agencies.

In Fife, for instance, Scottish Welfare Fund advisors working in Trussell Trust foodbanks to helped increase access to crisis grants.

But decreases in foodbank use in some areas may be due to closures or reduced access to front line services.

The new figures reveal that problems with benefits remains the most significant reason for foodbank use, accounting for a total of 42 per cent of referrals – 25 per cent due to benefit delays and 17 per cent due to benefit changes.

Low income has increased the proportion of people referred to the trust’s foodbanks in Scotland from 21 per cent during April to September 2015 to 24 per cent over the same period in 2016.

This is the highest increase in referrals for this reason in the first six months of any previous financial year.

Ewan Gurr, Scotland Network Manager, said: “The figures, revealed today, offer a mixed prospectus regarding the extent of foodbank use across Scotland.

“On one hand, we are still experiencing an epidemic of hunger in Scotland. Benefit delays and changes together are still the primary reasons underpinning the increased number of referrals to foodbanks.

“What is more concerning, however, is that hunger is also clearly and consistently being driven by low income. A decrease in the cash in people’s pockets leads to an increase in the use of foodbanks and is now the reason for almost a quarter of all referrals in Scotland.”

Mr Gurr added: “However, there are some positive messages embedded in these figures. In some local authorities we have seen decreases in foodbank use. “This has occurred where people have secured a crisis grant they previously had not known even existed or where someone has been signposted to a welfare rights advisor within the foodbank.

“Investment in these areas is the key to projecting people out of poverty, back into sustainable living and will drive down the use of foodbanks.”

The new figures also highlight a disproportionately higher number of people being referred to foodbanks in Scotland than any other part of the UK. Whilst the Scottish Welfare Fund can provide short-term support in Scotland, the charity is calling on the Department for Work and Pensions to install a direct hotline nationwide that will enable foodbanks to phone the local Job Centre Plus to get quick support and resolution for vulnerable clients.