Conservative welfare reform blamed for rising hunger and foodbank use
Glasgow foodbank - credit Danny Lawson/Press Association
Reform of the benefits system at a UK level has been blamed for rising foodbank use and hunger in Scotland.
Foodbank operator the Trussell Trust has reported more than 145,000 emergency food packages were handed to people in crisis in 2016-17, a rise of nine percent on the previous year.
As many as 47,955 children were helped by the service.
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Across the UK, the numbers of supplies rose from 1,109,309 to 1,182,000.
The Trussell Trust also produced research which revealed the biggest rises were in areas where the UK Government’s new Universal Credit, which combines various benefits into a single payment, has been rolled out.
Foodbanks in areas of full Universal Credit rollout to single people, couples and families have seen a 16.85 per cent average increase in referrals for emergency food, it said.
This is due to an initial waiting period for first payment of six weeks or more.
David McAuley, Chief Executive of The Trussell Trust, said: “The move to simplify an often complex welfare system is a welcome one but any large reform can have unforeseen consequences.
“Foodbanks see first-hand how changes to the welfare system affect people on the ground, and so can offer an early warning to decision-makers.
“We are sharing our early observations with the Department for Work and Pensions to ensure any adverse side effects Universal Credit can have on people are addressed before full rollout is completed.”
A spokesperson for the Department of Work and Pensions said: “Under Universal Credit, people are moving into work faster and staying in work longer than under the old system.
“Universal Credit is designed to mirror the world of work and give people control over their own finances.
“The majority of UC claimants are confident in managing their money and we work closely with local authorities to support those who need extra help.
“Budgeting support, benefit advances, and direct rent payments to landlords are available to those who need them.”
Meanwhile a poll by the Poverty Alliance reveals one in three Scots on a low income are skipping meals.
The survey of 1,024 adults showed 37 per cent had fallen behind with household bills in the last year, 34 per cent were regularly skipping meals and 28 per cent had topped up their income with a credit card or loan.