POVERTY PROB­LEM

Coun­cil asked to do more to help out

East Kilbride News - - FRONT PAGE - An­drea Lam­brou

Coun­cil chiefs in­sist they are do­ing all they can to tackle East Kil­bride’s poverty cri­sis as cash­strapped res­i­dents use food banks in big­ger num­bers.

The town’s food bank or­gan­is­ers have hit out at the greater lev­els of hard­ship fac­ing peo­ple liv­ing on the bread­line in the News over the last fort­night. East Kil­bride Com­mu­nity Food Bank claim the aver­age per­son is only three months away from hav­ing to use a food bank. And or­gan­iser Thomas McNeil be­lieves South La­nark­shire Coun­cil chas­ing ar­rears is “def­i­nitely caus­ing peo­ple greater lev­els of hard­ship” af­ter Loaves & Fishes chair­man De­nis Cur­ran MBE blasted the UK Gov­ern­ment and told how peo­ple’s ben­e­fits be­ing pulled was lead­ing to a rise in de­mand for food bank ser­vices.

The coun­cil says it is work­ing “con­tin­u­ously and in a num­ber of ways” to as­sist those strug­gling with poverty – and of­fers a range of ad­vice and sup­port ser­vices to peo­ple fac­ing fi­nan­cial dif­fi­cul­ties.

A coun­cil spokesman said: “We are con­cerned to hear about the pres­sures fac­ing food banks.”

Coun­cil chiefs in­sist they are do­ing all they can to tackle East Kil­bride’s food poverty cri­sis.

A two-part spe­cial re­port in the News over the last fort­night high­lighted the prob­lems be­ing faced as the town’s food bank or­gan­is­ers hit out at the greater lev­els of hard­ship fac­ing some peo­ple. We re­vealed that:

●The Loaves & Fishes char­ity, run by De­nis Cur­ran MBE, has handed out a stag­ger­ing 1100 food parcels so far this year and last month ran out of food for the first time in their 26-year his­tory.

●East Kil­bride Com­mu­nity Food Bank are at cri­sis point and see­ing be­tween 10 and 20 new faces com­ing through their doors each week.

●Food bank chiefs fear their ser­vices are be­ing used to plug a gap that should be filled by the wel­fare state – and the most vul­ner­a­ble are be­ing for­got­ten.

East Kil­bride Com­mu­nity Food Bank or­gan­iser Thomas McNeil be­lieves there is not enough sup­port from the lo­cal author­ity – and that chas­ing ar­rears is push­ing peo­ple into poverty.

But South La­nark­shire Coun­cil told the News it works “con­tin­u­ously and in a num­ber of ways” to as­sist those who are strug­gling – and will ask Loaves & Fishes about what help they need.

Mr McNeil said: “While the coun­cil has an agenda to try to tackle poverty, it doesn’t go right across the whole area of the coun­cil.

“I un­der­stand the coun­cil has to sort [coun­cil tax/rent] ar­rears but they don’t con­sider the knock-on im­pact that has to the in­di­vid­ual which can then put ad­di­tional pres­sure onto so­cial work or the NHS.

“And for most of the peo­ple we’re work­ing with who are strug­gling with de­pres­sion, anx­i­ety and other men­tal health con­di­tions, even the idea of pick­ing up to the coun­cil is a scary thought so the debts just build up.

“There is just no joined-up ap­proach to how that all op­er­ates; more peo­ple com­ing to us as a re­sult of coun­cil pol­icy. The coun­cil’s push for ar­rears is def­i­nitely caus­ing peo­ple greater lev­els of hard­ship.”

Both Mr McNeil and Mr Cur­ran want to see more sup­port and ac­tion from lo­cal au­thor­i­ties and politi­cians to erad­i­cate food banks for good.

“We’ve had one £300 cheque from South La­nark­shire Coun­cil yet we get calls ev­ery week from so­cial work­ers and hous­ing of­fi­cers who ask us to help feed some­one,” said Mr McNeil.

“The re­al­ity is the coun­cil is play­ing both hands – they’re not sup­port­ing us and they’re not re­sourc­ing their own so­cial work­ers to be able to help peo­ple.

An­gry Thomas McNeil

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