Worrying Surge in Foodbank Use
Adrian Doherty Oxfam Scotland Social & Digital Media Volunteer
6th Feb 2014
New figures released as the Scottish Parliament debate increasing use of foodbanks
Picture above shows local community collecting for West Dunbartonshire Community Foodshare
Oxfam Scotland has expressed major concern after new figures released by one of their Scottish partners revealed a surge in visits to their network of foodbanks of more than 50 per cent last month.
The data, which has been released today by the West Dunbartonshire Community Foodshare, shows a worrying increase in visits to the service between December and January.
It comes as MSPs debated the increasing use of foodbanks across Scotland at the earlier. Click here to see the debate.
Danny McCafferty, chair of West Dunbartonshire Community Foodshare (WDCF), said: "Charitable organisations engaged in the war against poverty have been torn between standing aside and letting people literally starve, or intervening through the establishment of foodbanks.
"What many had hoped would be a temporary measure is in fact being actively encouraged by the Westminster Government to become the new norm for delivering welfare to the destitute.
"We are on the road to re-establishing the Dickensian ethos of the "deserving and undeserving poor". We cannot and must not allow the present situation to become acceptable in a rich civilised society."
Overall, there were 358 visits to Foodshare's three outlets in West Dunbartonshire in January - up from 237 in December 2013 - an increase of 51%.
Some 41% of people seeking emergency support in January had families.
Part of the rise could be explained by increased awareness of the service. However, Foodshare has recorded a steady increase in visit numbers since July last year. There have been more than 1,400 visits so far in 2013/14 with food parcels worth more than £30,000 distributed.
Of those users giving a reason for their visit, 36% said it was due to having their welfare payments sanctioned with others citing financial pressures and rising utility bills.
The motion for the Holyrood debate highlighted the fact that "it is not only the unemployed, but also those underemployed or underpaid who are increasingly becoming reliant on foodbanks to feed themselves and their families".
Oxfam has renewed its call for politicians at both Holyrood and Westminster to take action in response to the growth in foodbank use.
Jamie Livingstone, Acting Head of Oxfam Scotland, said: "The surge in demand for foodbanks highlighted by the West Dunbartonshire Community Foodshare today is deeply concerning.
"Foodbanks are both a lifeline and a symptom of fundamental failure - they can never be seen as a long-term solution. Too many Scots don't have enough to eat - that simply cannot continue."
At a UK level, Oxfam is also calling on the Work and Pensions Select Committee to conduct an urgent inquiry into the relationship between changes to welfare and the growth of food poverty.
In Scotland, Oxfam believes the ability of people in poverty to hold decision-makers to account, including on food-poverty, would be boosted by the creation of a Poverty Commissioner.
By giving people in poverty a voice, a Poverty Commissioner would help address the lack of power and influence many people living in poverty have within political processes.