Families are still relying on foodbanks to survive

Written by Kate Shannon on 26 December 2016 in Inside Politics

Benefit delays and changes were named as the biggest reasons for foodbank use in the UK

Food aid: Picture credit - Fotolia

Last month, the Trussell Trust, which runs a network of over 400 foodbanks across the UK, recorded an increase in the number of people using the banks in Scotland. Between April and September 2016, 63,794 three-day supplies of emergency food were distributed to Scots, compared with 60,458 during the same period in 2015.

Ewan Gurr, Scotland network manager, said: “The figures 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. 


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“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 adviser 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.”

Across the UK, benefit delays and changes were named as the biggest reasons for foodbank use, accounting for 44 per cent of referrals to Trussell Trust foodbanks.

On welfare changes, the Scottish Government was accused by the Tories of performing a “massive screeching U-turn” on the timetable for taking on responsibility for some welfare powers. Ruth 

Davidson accused Nicola Sturgeon of leading a government that is “dithering, not delivering” for Scotland, after reports that the UK Government may continue to administer some benefits for several years after legislative control for them is passed to the Scottish Government. Nicola Sturgeon said Holyrood will take responsibility for welfare on time. 

A three-month consultation on building a Scottish social security system ended in November. Jeane Freeman, Minister for Social Security, described the number of responses and the positive engagement of people in face-to-face to events across the country as “a powerful indication” of the strength of feeling on the issue across Scotland.

She said: “Social security is an investment we all make in ourselves and in each other – none of us knows when we might need that support, and the benefits coming to Scotland will affect one in four of us.

“Engaging with people across all of Scotland, reaching every part of the country, means we now have a huge amount of feedback that will be invaluable to how we design and deliver social security.

“We have heard personal testimony – face-to-face and in writing – from people who have shared often harrowing and upsetting personal experiences. Each and every one of these conversations will contribute to helping us deliver these new social security powers so that they have dignity and respect at their core.

“This consultation has been a huge effort to gather views from as many people as possible – the size of the response is a powerful indication of how strongly people feel about the social security system they want for Scotland and I am very grateful to everyone who took part.

“We will now consider the responses carefully and publish a report early next year. But I want people to know this is not the end of the process. We will continue to engage with people and organisations as we take forward our plans to establish a Scottish system that treats people with dignity, respect and fairness.”

Around 15 per cent of welfare spending is set to be transferred to the Scottish Government. It has pledged to tackle punitive elements of the UK Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) regime such as work capability assessments and benefit sanctions.

Benefits being transferred to Scotland:

  •      Ill health and disability benefits – including Disability Living Allowance, Personal Independence Payment, Attendance Allowance, Severe Disablement Allowance and Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit
  •      Carer’s Allowance
  •      Sure Start Maternity Grants
  •      Funeral Payments
  •      Cold Weather Payments and Winter Fuel Payments
  •      Discretionary Housing Payments
  •      Some powers in relation to Universal Credit

Benefits to remain reserved to the UK Government:

  •    Universal Credit (which replaces Jobseeker’s Allowance, Income Related Employment Support Allowance, Working Tax Credits, Child Tax Credits and Housing Benefit)
  •    State Pension and Pension Credit
  •    Contributory Employment Support Allowance
  •    Child Benefit
  •    Maternity and Paternity Pay

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