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.”

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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/