The most recent figures for Scotland estimate that more than 55,000 people are relying on emergency food aid. That is around one percent of the entire Scottish population. Around a third of the people affected have been hit by the changes to the benefit system by the UK Government, including the “Bedroom Tax”, according to leading charities.
Many foodbanks are struggling to keep up with the current demand and the foodbank in Glenrothes recently had to make an emergency appeal for donations as food stocks ran very low. People making use of foodbanks aren’t seeking to avoid paying for their food, they are people who are in genuine hardship and have been referred to foodbanks by recognised professionals such as a social worker, a welfare rights adviser, a tenancy support worker or a school liaison officer
Oxfam stated that:
“No one turns up at Foodbanks because there is an opportunity for free food. They are driven there in sheer desperation.”
Citizens Advice Scotland Policy Manager Keith Dryburgh commented
“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.”
There are currently foodbanks in Glenrothes, Leven, Anstruther, Kirkcaldy and Dunfermline, with more surely in the pipeline as the recession and changes to the welfare system continue to bite. At a single foodbank in another part of Scotland, they had 186 visits last October, 215 in November, 237 in December, and 358 in January this year. This level of almost exponential growth shows how desperately hard it is becoming for people to survive in the current political climate.
The Fife News Online team believes that the efforts of the volunteers and charities running the foodbanks are admirable and are to be commended. However, to see people being forced to use them in ever-increasing numbers in what is reputed to be a rich country is heartbreaking. Any country that has so many of it’s citizens relying on food parcels to simply get by is, in our view, broken..
We would urge people to support their local foodbanks as much as they possibly can because they are genuinely providing a lifeline service to people who are struggling to keep their heads above water.