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Home  >  News  >  'Epidemic of Hunger' in Scotland


'Epidemic of Hunger' in Scotland

Tuesday November 8

The Scotland Network Manager for foodbanks provider the Trussell Trust has said there is ‘an epidemic of hunger in Scotland’.

Ewan Gurr made the comments as the charity reported a 6% increase in referrals this year.

The 51 foodbanks across Scotland run in partnership with the trust distributed 63,794 supplies of emergency food between April and September 2016, compared to 60,458 in the same period last year. 20,332 of these referrals were for children.

UK-wide, more than half a million food parcels were given out.

Announcing the mid-year statistics, the Christian charity said that their figures reaffirmed there was disproportionately high foodbank use in Scotland, and that even the 10 least-deprived local authority areas now had a Trussell Trust presence.

However, it pointed to positive signs in nine local authorities which saw a decrease in foodbank use.

Mr Gurr said: “The figures revealed today offer a mixed prospectus regarding the extent of foodbank use across Scotland. On one hand, we are still experiencing an epidemic of hunger in Scotland. Benefit delays and changes together are still the primary reasons underpinning the increased number of referrals to foodbanks. What is more concerning, however, is that hunger is also clearly and consistently being driven by low income. A decrease in the cash in people’s pockets leads to an increase in the use of foodbanks and is now the reason for almost a quarter of all referrals in Scotland.”

“However, there are some positive messages embedded in these figures. In some local authorities we have seen decreases in foodbank use. This has occurred where people have secured a crisis grant they previously had not known even existed or where someone has been signposted to a welfare rights advisor within the foodbank. Investment in these areas is the key to projecting people out of poverty, back into sustainable living and will drive down the use of foodbanks.”

The new figures released today reveal that problems with benefits remain the most significant reason for foodbank use, accounting for a total of 42 per cent of referrals – 25 per cent due to benefit delays and 17 per cent due to benefit changes.

Low income has increased the proportion of people referred to Trussell Trust foodbanks in Scotland from 21 per cent during April to September 2015 to 24 per cent over the same period in 2016. This is the highest increase in referrals for this reason in the first six months of any previous financial year.

The largest decreases in demand were seen in North Lanarkshire, Edinburgh and East Ayrshire. In some cases, it said, this is due to partnerships between statutory and voluntary services. In Fife (which saw a 9% drop), Scottish Welfare Fund advisors have been placed within Trussell Trust foodbanks to help raise awareness of, and increase access to, crisis grants. The trust says that foodbank reports have been positive, as the vast majority of applications for crisis grants are successful and the number of foodbank referrals decrease.

However, it adds that there are other less positive reasons for falling numbers in some areas, where decreases may be due to closures or reduced access to front line services. Some foodbanks have pointed to increased pressure on local services as a result of closures or cutbacks.

In response to today’s figures, the trust is calling for: Any Scottish Government investment in tackling food poverty to support provision alongside prevention; additional Scottish Government investment to enable the Scottish Welfare Fund to place advisors in foodbanks; and support for the emerging campaign around period poverty and investment to ensure women on working age benefits are able to access feminine hygiene products and adequate pain relief in a dignified manner.

The Trussell Trust provides three-day supplies of emergency food to people referred to them by a professional such as a social worker, health visitor or schools liaison officer. Its 52nd foodbank in Scotland is opening today, at Bristo Memorial Church in Edinburgh.

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