The use of food banks in Scotland has hit a record high after soaring by 17 per cent in the past year, according to research published today
Food banks across the nation distributed 170,625 three-day emergency food packages to people in crisis in the year to April, of which more than 55,000 went to children.
The figures were released by leading food aid charity the Trussell Trust, which said the ongoing freeze on working-age benefits meant that many people were left unable to feed themselves.
The charity said current benefit levels were “not covering the costs of essentials” for families and also criticised the roll-out of the Universal Credit system, which has been beset by problems.
The figures also showed that food bank use in Scotland is growing at a faster rate than across the UK as a whole, which saw a 13 per cent rise over the same period.
The highest number of food parcels were delivered to people in Scotland’s two largest cities, with 31,630 emergency packages given away in Glasgow and 17,328 in Edinburgh.
More than a quarter (28 per cent) of people being referred to food banks across the UK cited low income as their reason for needing emergency handouts, a rise of 6 per cent on the previous year.
Other key reasons why people sought help included benefit delays and benefit changes, with the Trussell Trust describing issues with Universal Credit as being a “significant factor”.
The charity published an analysis showing food banks in areas where the system had been in place for at least a year had reported an average increase in demand of 52 per cent. By contrast, food banks located in areas where Universal Credit was not fully established, or had only recently been introduced, reported an increase of just 13 per cent.
An accompanying survey of 284 people across the UK who were referred to food banks while enrolled on Universal Credit concluded that delays to initial payments had “severe” consequences.
Only 8 per cent of those surveyed said their full Universal Credit payment covered their cost of living, with “poor administration” of the new system also described as a persistent concern.
Tony Graham, Scotland director at the Trussell Trust, said: “It’s completely unacceptable that anyone is forced to turn to a food bank in Scotland, and we’ll continue to campaign for systemic change until everyone has enough money coming in to keep pace with the rising cost of essentials like food and housing.”