New figures reveal number of food bank parcels given out in Scotland almost double previously known figure

Nearly half a million parcels given out in 18 months

Shocking new figures published today have exposed an alarming picture of food bank use in Scotland, with nearly double the number of food parcels being given out than previously thought.

The new data, collected by the Independent Food Aid Network and A Menu for Change, for the first time reveals the startling number of food parcels given out by independently run food banks across the country.

The data shows that between April 2017 and September 2018, 84 independent food banks distributed 221,977 emergency food packages. Previously, centralised data for the number of food parcels collectively distributed by independent food banks hasn’t existed.

The numbers of three-day food supplies given out by independently run food banks build on existing figures, published by the Trussell Trust, which showed their network of 118 food banks distributed 258,606 food parcels during the same time period.

The new combined statistics mean that an estimated total of at least 480,583 food parcels – nearly half a million – were distributed by both Trussell Trust and independent food banks across Scotland between April 2017 and September 2018.

Sabine Goodwin, Coordinator of the Independent Food Aid Network, led the research. She said: “These statistics are deeply troubling, and provide yet more evidence of the growing number of people in Scotland who are unable to put food on the table.

“They also demonstrate the enormous collective effort of independent food bank volunteers and staff who are doing all they can to try to prevent people in their communities from facing hunger. Of course, we and they all know the long-term solution to hunger isn’t giving out food; it’s raising income. People should be helped financially well before they find themselves having to turn to a food bank as a last resort.”

The true scale of food bank provision in Scotland is even higher than today’s combined figures reveal, as a small number of independent food banks operational in Scotland during the research period were unable to contribute data to the Independent Food Aid Network and A Menu for Change’s joint project.

Experts are also warning that data on food parcel distribution still only provides a partial picture of the number of people in Scotland who are struggling to feed themselves and their families; with most people choosing to use other ways of coping, like skipping meals, rather than use a food bank. Last year, figures released by the Scottish Government revealed that one in five single parents in Scotland had faced hunger.

Kirkcaldy Foodbank operates multiple venues where people can access emergency food supplies. Joyce Leggate, Chair of the Foodbank, said: “Today’s statistics represent a worrying and growing number of people across Scotland who are struggling to make ends meet. Every day in Kirkcaldy, we meet people who are being driven to our doors because of problems with the benefits system. A third of the food parcels we give out go to families with children; the innocent victims of a system which is pushing people into debt, despair and poverty.

“We hope that today’s figures shine a light on the previously hidden role independent food banks are playing in picking up the pieces of a failing social safety net, and spur policy makers into taking decisive action to stop food banks like ours from becoming entrenched in Scottish society.”

Research shows that problems with the UK wide benefits system is one of the key drivers of food bank use, but Scottish campaigners from A Menu for Change say that the Scottish Government must urgently use its new social security powers to help prevent people in Scotland from being pushed further into poverty.

Scottish Ministers have promised to bring in a new income supplement by 2022 to help Scotland’s poorest families, but campaigners say people facing hardship can’t afford to wait three years for this extra support.

Dr. Mary Anne MacLeod, Research and Policy Officer at A Menu for Change, said: “These figures are truly shameful in rich Scotland and they should make for deeply uncomfortable reading for our political leaders: the problem of rising levels of hunger in Scotland is much worse than previously known.

“The Scottish Government should be commended for its plans to help families put food on the table through the new income supplement, but promises to help people in three years’ time are of little comfort to parents whose cupboards are empty right now.

“If the Scottish Government wants to reduce the number of people facing hunger, it must urgently bring forward its plans to top up the incomes of Scotland’s poorest families from 2022.”

—– ENDS —–

For more information and interviews, please contact: Rebecca Lozza, Media and Communications Officer, Oxfam Scotland, on 0141 285 8875 or RLozza1@Oxfam.org.uk

NOTES TO EDITORS

  • Download the full briefing here: http://bit.ly/2HFxSQS
  • A Menu for Change is a partnership project run by Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland, Nourish Scotland, Oxfam Scotland and the Poverty Alliance, and funded by the Big Lottery Fund. It aims to reduce the need for food banks.
  • The Independent Food Aid Network supports and connects a range of independent frontline food aid organisations while advocating on their behalf at a national level. Their vision is of a country that doesn’t need emergency food aid and in which good food is accessible to all.
  • IFAN has been responsible for the identification of at least 803 independent food banks and food parcel distributors across the UK – foodaidnetwork.org.uk/mapping
  • In September 2018, the Scottish Government for the first-time published statistics on the number of people in Scotland facing hunger. Its data revealed that one in five – 21% – of single parents in Scotland had faced hunger, with 16-44 year olds and people living in poor areas most likely to be going hungry. Read more: https://menuforchange.org.uk/response-to-the-scottish-health-survey/
  • In March 2021, the UK Government will publish inaugural statistics on the number of people facing hunger across the UK through the DWP’s Family Resources Survey.
  • Read A Menu for Change’s briefing Insights into the Impact of Universal Credit on Food Insecurity here: https://menuforchange.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/Universal-Credit-briefing.pdf

 

Growing numbers turn to Scottish Welfare Fund for crisis support

New figures released by the Scottish government today show a growing number of people are turning to the Scottish Welfare Fund for support to cover essential living costs such as heating and eating.

The Scottish Welfare Fund comprises of Community Care Grants – which help people to live independently – and Crisis Grants, which provide a safety net in a disaster or emergency.

The statistics show that from July to September 2018, Local Authorities received 44,530 applications for Crisis Grants – up 4% from the previous year. Yet the total number of awards made actually decreased by 1% to 28,950.

Clackmannanshire and Angus saw significant spikes in the number of crisis grant awards; up 84% and 71% respectively.

However, A Menu for Change is concerned that the Scottish Welfare Fund’s budget has not been increased since its launch, despite rising inflation.

Responding to the figures, Dr. Mary Anne MacLeod, Research and Policy Officer at A Menu for Change said: “These statistics are extremely concerning. It’s absolutely unacceptable that in a wealthy country like Scotland such large number of people simply don’t have enough money to heat their homes or put food on the table.

“What’s worrying is that the safety net which is supposed to catch people – the Scottish Welfare Fund – has had its budget cut in real terms year on year. The Scottish government must urgently address this shortfall and make sure the Scottish Welfare Fund has the support and resources it needs to help prevent more people from being pushed further into poverty.”

A Menu for Change is keen to work with local authorities and the Scottish government to ensure the Scottish Welfare Fund is able to help everyone unable to afford food.

A total of 316,095 low income households have accessed emergency funding to help with the costs of essentials such as food and heating since 2013.

 

Mapping the bigger picture: how many emergency food parcels are given out in Scotland?

Just how many emergency food parcels are given out across Scotland a year?

The short answer?

We don’t know.

We do know that Trussell Trust food banks represent around 56% of the Scottish food bank picture and gave out 170, 625 parcels to adults and children from April 2017 to April 2018.

However, the collective scale of food parcel distribution within the independent sector, the remaining 44% of the food bank picture in Scotland, is unknown.

That’s why the Independent Food Aid Network has joined forces with A Menu for Change to collect data on independent food parcel distribution across Scotland. This data will provide us vital intelligence on just how many people in Scotland can’t afford to buy food and are turning to food banks.

We’re delighted that 77% of all Scottish independent food bank venues (69 out of 89) are working with us, especially because we know these organisations are working tirelessly every week to provide emergency food parcels across 18 local authority areas.

We have met with representatives from a variety of independent food banks and food parcel distributors to discuss how we’ll work together to collect food parcel statistics.

The engagement and enthusiasm has been inspiring. As Lorraine McCormick from Oban’s Hope Kitchen said: “It was lovely to meet people doing the same work as us. We are really excited to be taking part in the project and it has already made us think about how we collect our data.”

These meetings have also provided opportunities for independent food bank managers and coordinators to meet each other, often for the first time, and to share immediate concerns and best practice. We’re really grateful to everyone who took the time to come along, despite often facing a long journey.

We’ll be collating information across the sector on the numbers of parcels distributed and the numbers of children and adults helped, with room to collate further data if available. We hope to be able to release data on the number of parcels distributed and the number of adults and children helped by independent food banks and food parcel distributors during 2017 and 2018 soon. And we’ll be collecting data for publication for the first quarter of 2019 from January.

Claire Slight and Anne McCormack of the Broke not Broken Food Bank based in Kinross summed up the significance of this work:

As with many other independent food banks, our aim is to be redundant. Seeing the data that has up until now been missing from the public realm will be a real wake-up call, we hope, to society and in particular the system that has become reliant on food banks.

“It will enable a true reflection of the huge hole in the system the food banks have been filling which has been hit time and time again by budget cuts, not only in terms of in-work poverty, child poverty and food poverty, but also with regards to mental health support, addiction support and care for the most vulnerable in our communities.”

Charity Pritchard, of Edinburgh City Mission’s Basics Banks, agreed, adding: “This project is vital to ending food poverty. We need to work together with organisations like these to enable a joint approach for nationwide change. The voices of those we support need to be heard and represented in discussions about ending food poverty in Scotland.”

Wondering who’s taking part in our project so far? Take a look at our map and full list of participants. 

If you’d like to find out more please contact Sabine at scotlandindependentstats@gmail.com

Sabine Goodwin works as the Coordinator of the Independent Food Aid Network and has been responsible for the identification and mapping of independent food banks/food parcel distributors across the whole of the UK.

Scottish Budget provides no immediate answers to families facing hunger

Today the Scottish Government’s Finance Secretary Derek Mackay unveiled the government’s new budget.

Responding to the announcement, Polly Jones, Project Manager of A Menu for Change, said: “Across Scotland, a fifth of single parents are wondering where their next meal is coming from and this budget fails to provide any immediate answers.

“It’s particularly disappointing that Ministers appear to have missed the chance to properly resource the Scottish Government’s own emergency pot, the Scottish Welfare Fund, which hasn’t had a penny more since it began in 2013. It is vital that the Fund can provide a lifeline for people who can’t afford to feed themselves or their families.

“It’s time to prioritise preventing poverty, and ensuring that anyone who falls through the gaps is caught by Scotland’s social security safety net.”

Scottish government must help tackle ‘winter of misery’ exacerbated by Universal Credit roll out

Campaigners are calling for the Scottish government to do more to help tackle the suffering caused by changes to the UK benefit system, including the roll out of Universal Credit, in the run up to Christmas.

The government has already pledged to use its new welfare powers to top up the incomes of Scottish families by 2022, but campaigners say ministers must act with far greater urgency to deliver on their promise through the forthcoming Scottish budget.

The campaigners’ call comes as A Menu for Change, a partnership project run by Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland, Nourish Scotland, Oxfam Scotland and Poverty Alliance, tonight will be setting up a food bank inside Holyrood; staging the Scottish premier of theatre production Food Bank As It Is.

The play, written by the manager of a food bank in London Tara Osman, will bring the voices and experiences of food bank users to the Scottish Parliament. 52% rises in food bank use have been documented across the UK where Universal Credit has been rolled out.

Polly Jones, Project Manager of A Menu for Change, said the play has been designed to galvanise Scottish politicians to use all their powers to prevent people from facing hunger, as well as condemning policies made by the UK government.

Jones said: “It’s appalling that in a rich country like Scotland, more and more people are turning to food banks because they don’t have enough money to buy food; a problem which is being exacerbated by the disastrous roll out of Universal Credit.

“There’s no question this is crisis driven by UK government cuts but it’s important to remember that the Scottish government isn’t powerless to tackle the effects of policies made at Westminster. If we’re going to avoid a winter of misery with countless people facing hunger then it’s time for Ministers to live up to their promise to top up he incomes of hard up families across Scotland.”

The hard-hitting play, which has previously been performed across England and Wales, will debut at the Scottish Parliament and will then be performed in both Edinburgh and Glasgow. Playwright Tara Osman has adapted the play based on A Menu for Change’s research to reflect the real-life stories of Scottish food bank users, who will be represented by Scottish actors.

Osman said she hoped to shine a light on the misery faced by people facing hunger in Scotland. She said: “For the first time, this play brings the voices of food bank users to the corridors of power. It pulls no punches, and nor should it. It’s a disgrace that anyone is facing hunger when supermarket shelves are stuffed full of food. Hopefully Food Bank As It Is underlines the urgency and necessity of political action to tackle hunger.”

—– ENDS —–

For more information, tickets and interviews, please contact: Rebecca Lozza, Media and Communications Officer, Oxfam Scotland, on 0141 285 8875 / 07880785159 or RLozza1@Oxfam.org.uk

NOTES TO EDITORS

  • A Menu for Change is a partnership project run by Child Poverty Action Group Scotland, Nourish Scotland, Oxfam Scotland and the Poverty Alliance, and funded by the Big Lottery Fund. It aims to reduce the need for food banks.
  • Food Bank As It Is will be staged in the Members’ Restaurant from 6pm on Wednesday 21 November. For press tickets contact Rebecca Lozza: RLozza1@Oxfam.org.uk
  • In September, the Scottish Government for the first time published statistics on the number of people in Scotland facing hunger. Its data revealed that 8% of Scots had faced hunger, with 16-44 year olds and people living in poor areas most likely to be going hungry. Read more: https://menuforchange.org.uk/response-to-the-scottish-health-survey/

UN expert calls level of UK poverty a ‘disgrace’

The UK Government’s policies and drastic cuts to social support are entrenching high levels of poverty and inflicting unnecessary misery in one of the richest countries in the world, a UN human rights expert said today.

Following a 12 day trip to the UK, including a visit to Glasgow and Edinburgh, the UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights Philip Alston, said the level of poverty he had witnessed were a ‘disgrace’.

Responding to Alston’s report, Polly Jones, Project Manager at A Menu for Change, said: “This report is a damning indictment of the political choices which are pushing people across the UK into poverty, hunger and despair.

“Here in Scotland, the picture is equally grim. The Scottish Welfare Fund should provide a lifeline to families in crisis, but as Alston has highlighted, too many people are missing out on the assistance they’re entitled to. His warning should serve as a wakeup call to the Scottish government and local councils to prioritise this fund so it’s able to reach more people, more quickly and avoid them being driven to the doors of food banks.”

Too many Scots are going hungry on World Food Day

Today is World Food Day. Last year, The Herald marked World Food Day by introducing A Menu for Change, a project to reduce the number of people turning to food banks in Scotland. A year on, A Menu for Change has a positive story to tell about how this is being done in Fife, Dundee and East Ayrshire.

The problem was never a lack of food. It’s a lack of income. It’s poverty. If you are living on the breadline, the freeze on benefits and introduction of Universal Credit, squeeze on wages and rising cost of living will be hitting you hard. In the last eight years, UK welfare spending has been cut by £37 billion – equivalent to the entire Scottish Government budget – and over 200 food banks have begun operating in Scotland. While the powers to raise the minimum wage, ban zero hours contracts and reform the social security system lie with Westminster, there is a limit to what can be done north of the border.

But we are not powerless. A Menu for Change has been testing how much can be done with the resources and responsibilities we already have.

In North Lanarkshire, since 2015 the local authority has worked with local services to agree a shared and simple pathway which helps people with no money for food access the advice and support they’re entitled to. This tries to prevent future crises, puts the Scottish Welfare Fund at the heart of the system, and leaves the food bank as the last resort. Local food banks have seen 22% fewer visitors as a result.

In Dundee and Fife, local services are using this example to coordinate their own support and advice to ensure people get all the income they are entitled to before they seek emergency food aid. Faith in Community Dundee is training advisors across Dundee to make sure everyone knows what support is available so all other avenues have been exhausted before anyone is referred to the food bank.

The Maxwell Centre, a thriving community centre in Dundee, has been the biggest referrer to Scotland’s biggest food bank for many years. Frustrated by their ability to only give out vouchers, which entitle someone to get a food parcel from the food bank, they have recruited an advice worker of their own. With their expertise, people will now get advice to prevent a crisis in the future and a benefit check to make sure they are getting everything they should.

East Ayrshire Citizens’ Advice Bureau is planning an emergency telephone line to give people in rural areas access to advice and support if they have run out of money for food. This way people can make an informed choice about what action they can take to meet their needs instead of there being no option but to go to the food bank.

In Fife and East Ayrshire, two groups of people who have previously had to rely on emergency food aid have decided to set up local buying clubs. Together they’ll be reducing their shopping bills, spreading the cost of food and providing a source of support to people in their community who have run out of money.

It’s scandalous that on any day, people in Scotland struggle to find the money they need to buy basic essentials like food. While we wait for politicians to use their powers to raise the lowest levels of income, we don’t have to look far to learn from communities around the country who are rolling up their sleeves and demonstrating that Scotland can challenge poverty and win.

Author: Polly Jones, Project Manager

This article originally appeared in The Herald. 

Moving upstream: tackling food poverty before it becomes a crisis in Renfrewshire

The population of Renfrewshire is 178,600. Situated on the west coast of Scotland, there are 14 parks, one Scottish Premiership football team (a gold star if you can name it) and Paisley town centre has the highest concentration of historical buildings outside of Edinburgh. True story.

Sadly, some of those historical buildings now host food banks. Last year, nearly 9,000 people from across Renfrewshire had to rely on charitable handouts to feed themselves. Like many places in Scotland, Renfrewshire is suffering from increasing food insecurity.

A Menu for Change is creating space for communities and service providers to share learning and knowledge about what work is already taking place to ensure more people have enough money to be able to feed themselves and their families well and with dignity. Tackling food insecurity is a priority for the local authority and there is a shared willingness and determination to challenge it among many local organisations, through innovation and collaborative working.

On 23 August we invited local organisations to come together to reflect on the work underway to improve the outcomes for people experiencing food insecurity and to consider what else they would like to happen, at Renfrewshire’s Response to Food Insecurity.

Renfrewshire food bank explained that numbers are increasing and are likely to further increase with the advent of full service Universal Credit. This steady rise puts undue pressure on the food bank to fill an ever widening gap in statutory provision. Originally designed as an emergency response, the food bank now provides support for people through sustained periods of income crisis and destitution.

From the food bank’s perspective, the sound professional judgement of referral agencies is integral to ensuring that all other options have been exhausted before people are referred to the food bank. Staff believe it should always be the last port of call.

We discussed ways people could be helped before they ever reached a food bank. We considered how a simple leaflet, detailing where people could access money if they didn’t have any, could be developed, alongside training for food bank referrers. This is part of a pilot project in East Ayrshire about to be undertaken by Citizen’s Advice Bureau and aimed at ensuring people experiencing an income crisis are receiving comprehensive information about all the support available.

With Universal Credit being rolled out in Renfrewshire, it is more important than ever that people know what their statutory entitlements are to see them through what could be a significant delay in payment. After all, according to the Trussell Trust, the number of people turning to food banks in Universal Credit full service areas has increased by a staggering 52%.

Indeed, a common theme raised at every table discussion was the need for a robust and understandable referral pathway.
Attendees also focused on the benefits of community hubs such as the Maxwell Centre in Dundee where people can access a variety of support at once from one-to-one advice to a community garden, as well as considering how community-led food larders might be a way to ensure people have reliable and routine access to food of their choosing.

Renfrewshire as a local authority council has already taken some innovative steps to tackle food insecurity. An Advice Partnership has been meeting since 2015 to ensure that advice provision is as streamlined and accessible as possible and a Food Bank Sub Group was set up to solve common issues relating to food insecurity. As a result, the Citizen’s Advice Bureau now has food parcels to increase the accessibility of advice provision and reduce the numbers of places people have to visit for support when experiencing an income crisis.

There are now Claimant Support Officers in every Jobcentre in Renfrewshire. They are there to provide an essential link to a variety of Council services, as well as supporting people to access a host of provision, including discretionary housing payments to landlords when Housing Benefit or Universal Credit is not enough.

In addition, Renfrewshire Council recognised that cost is a barrier to getting to and from services for people on lower incomes. With their Transport Grant scheme anyone who does not have the money to make it home can be given an all-day bus ticket from the food bank.

All of these pieces of work demonstrate a way of working which tries to prevent an acute income crisis from happening, where community members have access to knowledge, information and support before reaching crisis point.

There was significant energy to take these solutions forward among the diverse range of attendees. Representatives from Housing Associations, Council departments, advice providers, supportive organisations and community growers were keen to work together to put some of the ideas they’d had into practice.

For many, this was the start of a different conversation and one that could spell a new chapter for people living in Renfrewshire. The aim was clear: do everything possible to ensure that people have enough money so they can choose their own food and make sure that in future, the only connection between food banks and Paisley’s famous buildings is their historic nature.

Author: Anna Baillie, Project Officer

Response to the Scottish Health Survey

Today, for the first time ever, the Scottish Government has published statistics on household food insecurity as part of the Scottish Health Survey.

Responding to the figures, Dr Mary Anne MacLeod, Policy Officer at A Menu for Change, said: “These statistics paint a grim picture of hunger across the country. Given Scotland isn’t facing a food shortage, this is clearly a problem of widespread poverty.

“The figures show 16-44 year olds are most likely to be going hungry. We know low wages, zero hour contracts, frozen benefit levels and the introduction of Universal Credit are pushing more and more people to the brink. When so many people are struggling to make ends meet you know something has gone badly wrong with the system.

“That’s why our political leaders must urgently fix the system: in our rich country no one should be constantly worrying about how they’re going to feed their kids. We can do better than that. Everyone should be able to access the money they need to put food on the table.”

Kerry* from East Ayrshire is just one person who told A Menu for Change about her struggle to feed herself and her family. She said: “Obviously, my main priority’s making sure my kids are fed. And if it’s the difference between me getting fed or them getting fed, then it’s them obviously.”

—– ENDS —–

NOTES TO EDITORS

  • *name has been changed.
  • A Menu for Change is a partnership project run by Child Poverty Action Group Scotland, Nourish Scotland, Oxfam Scotland and the Poverty Alliance. It aims to reduce the need for food banks.