The Scotsman

Use of food bank ser­vices dou­bles dur­ing pan­demic

- Hunger · UK News · Foodbanks · Infectious Diseases · Social Issues · Society · Charity · Health Conditions · Scotland · United Kingdom · Scottish Parliament · Scottish Government · Universal Credit

In­de­pen­dent food banks in Scot­land have seen the use of their ser­vices more than dou­ble amid the coron­avirus pan­demic, ac­cord­ing to new data.

The In­de­pen­dent Food Aid Net­work (IFAN) recorded a 113 per cent in­crease in emer­gency par­cel dis­tri­bu­tion be­tween Fe­bru­ary and July.

It is now calling on the Scot­tish and UK gov­ern­ments to take more mea­sures to ad­dress what it de­scribes as “es­ca­lat­ing poverty”.

IFAN co-or­di­na­tor Sabine Good­win said: “In­de­pen­dent food banks in Scot­land have seen a dou­bling in need for their sup­port. The writ­ing is on the wall. Even more peo­ple are go­ing to be thrown into fi­nan­cial cri­sis in the com­ing months, and food banks can­not con­tinue to pick up the pieces of a bro­ken ben­e­fit sys­tem and in­suf­fi­cient wages.

“The Scot­tish and UK gov­ern­ments, as well as lo­cal au­thor­i­ties, must do all they can to pri­ori­tise ac­cess to ‘cash first’ so­lu­tions for peo­ple un­able to af­ford food.”

The IFAN is calling on Holy­rood min­is­ters to de­liver on com­mit­ments to a “cash first” ap­proach.

This in­cludes pro­mot­ing the Scot­tish Wel­fare Fund and tak­ing im­me­di­ate ac­tion to put in place the equiv­a­lent fi­nan­cial sup­port of the Scot­tish Child Pay­ment due in Fe­bru­ary next year.

More than £110 mil­lion has been in­vested by the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment in re­spond­ing to food in­se­cu­rity as a re­sult of the pan­demic.

The UK gov­ern­ment is be­ing urged to carry out a num­ber of mea­sures in­clud­ing re­mov­ing the ben­e­fit cap, end­ing the two-child limit and mak­ing the £20 up­lift to Uni­ver­sal Credit per­ma­nent and ex­tend­ing it to legacy ben­e­fits.

It is also fac­ing calls to end the five-week wait for a first ben­e­fit pay­ment, stop­ping the sanc­tions sys­tem and to per­ma­nently sus­pend no re­course to pub­lic funds sta­tus.

The IFAN said 70 in­de­pen­dent food banks across 20 lo­cal au­thor­i­ties in Scot­land dis­trib­uted at least 182,863 emer­gency food parcels be­tween Fe­bru­ary and July. April, the first full month of lock­down, saw a 141 per cent rise in the num­ber of three­day emer­gency food parcels dis­trib­uted, com­pared with the same month in Scot­land last year.

The in­crease in Fe­bru­ary and March had been 5 per cent and 36 per cent re­spec­tively.

A Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment spokes­woman said: “Scot­land is unique across the UK in tak­ing a ‘cash-first’ (di­rect fi­nan­cial trans­fer) ap­proach to tack­ling food in­se­cu­rity.

“That is why we have more than dou­bled the na­tional bud­get for the Scot­tish Wel­fare Fund and have given lo­cal au­thor­i­ties the flex­i­bil­ity to pro­vide their al­lo­ca­tion of food and other es­sen­tials fund­ing as cash where ap­pro­pri­ate.”

A Depart­ment for Work and Pen­sions spokesman said: “With Uni­ver­sal Credit, ur­gent pay­ments are avail­able and through­out the pan­demic we have pro­vided fur­ther sup­port to peo­ple on low in­comes by in­tro­duc­ing in­come pro­tec­tion schemes, mort­gage hol­i­days and ad­di­tional help for renters.

“Scot­land has sig­nif­i­cant wel­fare pow­ers, in­clud­ing the abil­ity to top up ex­ist­ing ben­e­fits, pay dis­cre­tionary pay­ments and cre­ate en­tirely new ben­e­fits.”

 ??  ?? Food banks have seen calls for their help dou­ble
Food banks have seen calls for their help dou­ble

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