Shelves bare as foodbank faces Christmas crunch
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.’
Kintyre Foodbank vice-chairman Ben Russell, left, and MP Brendan O’Hara by the empty shelves.
A list of the typical items required by Kintyre Foodbank.