Council asked to do more to help out
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