Shelves bare as food­bank faces Christ­mas crunch

Campbeltown Courier - - NEWS - Mark Davey edi­tor@camp­bel­town­courier.co.uk

Ar­gyll and Bute’s MP was shocked to see empty shelves at Kin­tyre Food­bank dur­ing a re­cent visit. Dur­ing the Fri­day morn­ing ses­sion, MP Bren­dan O’Hara saw four clients who had been re­ferred to the char­ity by a num­ber of agen­cies, make col­lec­tions from an al­ready de­pleted stock. Speak­ing to Kin­tyre Food­bank vice-chair­man, Ma­jor Ben Rus­sell, Mr O’Hara said: ‘The last time I was here the shelves were ab­so­lutely groan­ing – you could not get any­thing else on the shelves. ‘Look­ing round, the shelves are empty and you won­der how much more of a client group can you ac­tu­ally ac­com­mo­date. ‘If ev­ery­body who is in need turned up on your doorstep, would the food­bank be able to cope?’ Mr Rus­sell replied: ‘I would say the an­swer is prob­a­bly no.’ Mr O’Hara said: ‘My added con­cern is when Uni­ver­sal Credit kicks in. ‘It has been rolled out in Ar­gyll and Bute for just un­der a month. ‘It has not re­ally taken ef­fect but I am con­cerned that the vol­un­tary sec­tor food­banks are go­ing to be ab­so­lutely swamped.’ Uni­ver­sal Credit re­places the fol­low­ing ben­e­fits: child tax credit, hous­ing ben­e­fit, in­come sup­port, in­come-based job­seeker’s al­lowance (JSA), in­come-re­lated em­ploy­ment and sup­port al­lowance (ESA), and work­ing tax credit. Mr O’Hara added: ‘I have of­fered to all the food­banks in Ar­gyll and Bute that in the next few months, I will hold client surg­eries, one-to--one with any­one who needs it on Uni­ver­sal Credit, to make sure that they know that my of­fice is avail­able. My staff have all been trained on Uni­ver­sal Credit but I don’t think peo­ple are fully aware of the po­ten­tial con­se­quences. ‘I have al­ways be­lieved that our of­fice is part of the so­cial safety net in Ar­gyll and Bute. ‘We need to be work­ing to­gether to make sure that gov­ern­ment widens the holes in the safety net. ‘Uni­ver­sal Credit will re­ally start to af­fect peo­ple. ‘It is very easy for peo­ple with com­put­ers to get in touch with me or through email but for many in this sit­u­a­tion (us­ing the food­bank), it can be dif­fi­cult to ac­cess me in my of­fice. ‘If you can tell your clients I am com­ing, then I will be here for them.’ Mr Rus­sell added: ‘Some of the peo­ple who need the food­bank from fam­ily sit­u­a­tions don’t come. ‘They are the hid­den peo­ple who strug­gle on from day to day. As a Sal­va­tion Army of­fi­cer, I have just fin­ished a cam­paign where I have been knock­ing on doors for the an­nual ap­peal. ‘I look around at some of the doors I have knocked, and we are ask­ing for money and I am ac­tu­ally think­ing, “I should just open the pot re­ally and give you a hand-out”.’ Mr O’Hara said: ‘Just now I was speak­ing to one of your clients and he told me he strug­gled for a year be­fore some­one brought him to the food­bank. ‘Peo­ple ei­ther do not know you are here or do not want to ad­mit to them­selves or your­selves that they are in cri­sis.’

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Kin­tyre Food­bank vice-chair­man Ben Rus­sell, left, and MP Bren­dan O’Hara by the empty shelves.

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A list of the typ­i­cal items re­quired by Kin­tyre Food­bank.

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