New analysis by Citizens Advice Scotland has shone light onto the deeply uncomfortable reality lived by thousands of people in Scotland. Between January and March this year, the issue of not having enough money to buy food was raised 1,311 times by clients. That equates to one in every 50 Citizens Advice Bureau clients,
Ahead of appearing in front of the Scottish Parliament’s Welfare Reform Committee to talk about this issue, Keith Dryburgh, CAS Policy Manager and author of a new ‘Voices from the Frontline’ report on food parcels and the benefits system said,
“Citizens Advice Bureaux are used to being a port of call in crisis, but this issue is a new and growing one. We can point to a number of different factors which have contributed to this growing crisis; and despite an admirable response from community groups, the root causes remain unresolved.
“Sanctions to peoples’ benefits, reassessments to disability and sickness benefit and poor administration of benefits all seem to be drivers of this problem. This is both policy and processes that need to be addressed. While anyone can suffer a crisis that sees them end up looking for a food parcel, this is an issue disproportionally affecting people out of work and who rely upon the state as a safety net. One in 12 unemployed CAB clients needed a food parcel, and of CAB clients unable to work due to a disability, one in 26 needed a food parcel.
“What also concerns us is that the system seems mechanical in dealing with human beings. We have clients who have had their benefits removed or not paid without a full explanation. Often, sanctioned clients have valid, reasonable explanations for why they have not completed what was required of them. For example one CAB client did not receive benefits and needed help to access a food parcel after his benefit forms were lost not once but twice by the DWP.
"CAB can help people access food parcels when they turn to us for help. However what we actually need is for people not to be in crisis in the first place and to never be in a position where they cannot feed themselves or their families.”
Notes to editors - click to expand/collapse
1) The actual number of clients needing to help to put food on the table is very likely to be higher than 1,311. Eleven CAB across the country are still to report their statistics from January – March 2014.
2) In the first nine months of 2013/14, clients sought advice on 2260 new sanctions issues at Scottish Citizens advice Bureaux.
3) Men were more likely than women to need support with food (1 food parcel issue per 35 males, compared with 1 per 79 female clients).
4) Other interesting factors around client profile for those needing help with food parcels include: a greater likelihood to live in council rented accommodation (1 in 18 clients needing help with food poverty), to be unemployed (1 in 12) or unable to work due to a disability (1 in 26).
5) In 2013/14, The Trussell Trust provided food parcels to over 70,000 people in Scotland, with other foodbanks also provided by organisations such as Fareshare and The Salvation Army. CAB signpost to organisations such as these.
Case study – benefit administration
- A North of Scotland CAB reports of a client who has been suffering hardship due to poor Jobcentre Plus administration. The 55 year old client, who has had cancer and a stroke, has had two ESA applications lost by JCP in the last two months. As a result, the client has not had any income for seven weeks and has needed two Crisis Grants and a referral to a food bank.
- A West of Scotland CAB reports of a 20 year old client who sought advice after her JSA claim was sanctioned. The sanction was imposed without any notice on her usual payment date, meaning that she had no opportunity to put aside any money to last her the two weeks before she could get a hardship payment. The client received a sanction because she hadn’t filled in her online job search properly as she was unable to log on due to a problem with the system. The client had written down her job searches, but this wasn’t deemed to be enough. The client had already been given a food parcel and wanted to appeal the sanction decision.
The Full Voices from the Frontline report is attached, and contains further analysis and case studies.