Clearly the main issues are a direct result of the current Government’s policies. Many people turning to food banks have been “sanctioned”, to use the Government’s word, often for seemingly unfair reasons. Some 86% of food banks say that they have seen an increase in referrals for that reason. It is not just the Trussell Trust making that point; Barnardo’s also does, citing the rising cost of living, cuts in welfare support and benefit delays.
Those matters are under the Government’s control. There do not need to be delays in sorting out benefits when circumstances change or for there to be sanctions for seemingly minor reasons. From my constituency experience, there appears to be a particular problem when someone wishes to change from a dual to a single claim. They cannot get a clear answer on what information is required to prove their status. Such cases can drag on for months, which is completely and utterly unacceptable. Sorting that out would not necessarily increase costs and would certainly reduce the misery that many of those who use food banks are suffering.
The use of food banks is not just about benefits. It is also about incomes, as many Members have said. The Scottish Government are promoting the living wage among their own employers, and the new ScotRail contract will include a living wage clause. SSE has just become a living wage employer. Food banks are not an easy route for anyone, and those who will be most pleased when food banks cease to be required are the volunteers who are putting so much into running them and helping those in need.