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Scotland's foodbank 'crisis' due to problems in the benefits system

6 Feb 2014

Citizens Advice Scotland has said that nearly three quarters of people they refer to foodbanks are in that position due to problems related to the benefit system.

As MSPs prepare to debate the issue Thursday 6th February, CAS has revealed that Scottish CABs referred over 400 people to a foodbank last month – the highest monthly figure yet recorded. 

The charity has also told MSPs today that 30% of their foodbank referrals are because the person’s benefit has been delayed. A further 22% have been ‘sanctioned’ by the jobcentre; 14% have had their benefit re-assessed; and 7% have been hit by the Bedroom Tax.  (see attached briefing) 

Ahead of today’s debate in Holyrood, CAS Policy Manager Keith Dryburgh says, 

“It used to be quite rare for CAB advisers to see people who were so poor that they literally couldn’t afford to eat that day. Sadly, over the last few years it has become increasingly common. The reasons behind this are the recession and the drastic changes that have been made to the benefits system. 

“We are pleased that there are organisations like foodbanks and other emergency charities who are able to help these people, and we commend the work of the Trussell Trust and other such groups. But food parcels don’t address the underlying problem of poverty, and should not be seen as a long-term solution to it. This is a crisis that needs to be addressed urgently. 

“The UK government regularly says that people who need help will get it from the welfare system, but It’s clear that in practice this isn’t always the case. The fact is that the government’s policies are leaving many people without the vital safety net that the welfare system is meant to provide.  People should not need to go to a CAB or a food-bank because they have no money, and yet this is what CAB advisers see every week. 

“In January alone, Scottish CAB advisers referred over 400 people to a foodbank or other emergency support. That’s the highest figure we have ever seen for any one month. This is the reality of how many Scots are living today, and it is extremely worrying – particularly when you consider that many of those people have children or elderly relatives to support. 

“We are pleased MSPs are focusing on the issue again today, and we hope they will address it urgently, providing whatever help they can to those who are struggling. But the UK government also needs to review its welfare changes and the impact these are having on people in practice.”   

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