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Foodbanks - 'It's time to decide what sort of society we want to be'

24 Apr 2013

Citizens Advice Scotland have said the rise in the number of people using foodbanks shows the devastating impact of the government’s welfare reforms, and have called on people to consider whether such policies and their outcomes are acceptable.

The Trussell Trust has said today that the number of Scots using their foodbanks increased by 150% last year, from 5,726 to 14,318.

In response, Citizens Advice Scotland’s Head of Policy Susan McPhee says,

“These figures are appalling, but sadly they are not surprising. We’ve seen similar trends in the CAB service. Last year Scottish CAB advisers dealt with 2,500 cases of people who we referred to Emergency Support – which includes foodbanks and other urgent charity assistance. This was double the number of such referrals the previous year.

“Our evidence shows that the main reason why people find themselves in these crisis positions is a sudden unexpected loss of income. In the majority of cases this can be traced to a problem in the benefit system: either they are having their benefits cut because of the welfare reforms, or there has been a delay in receiving a payment due to processing problems. An increasing number of foodbank cases are due to the person being harshly ‘sanctioned’ by the jobcentre, and having their benefits removed altogether for a period of weeks or even months.

“We are really concerned though that these figures will only increase over the next few years. We are starting to see many more people in desperate situations and at the ‘tipping point’ for needing this kind of help. So we need to look at the reasons why so many people are in these crisis situations. And that is largely about the UK government’s policies towards people on low incomes – in particular its welfare reforms. These are having a devastating impact on families and communities across Scotland. The government rhetoric is about getting people out of the benefit trap , but the reality is that its current policies are pushing people into poverty and towards foodbanks.

“The Trussell Trust, CAS and others are presenting the hard facts. This is what is happening today in Scotland. We need to decide, as a society, if we are content with this. We need to decide if it’s acceptable, in 2013, for so many of our fellow citizens to be so poor that they literally can’t eat, and they have no option but to rely on charity goodwill to feed themselves and their children.”

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