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Even the UK Government has finally recognised, after years of mounting evidence, that rolling out universal credit has increased the need for food banks. Universal credit has caused huge damage and has pushed people into debt and hardship. We will continue to call for no one to be migrated to universal credit until its fundamental flaws have been fixed and it works for people, rather than against them.
In recognition that people have been badly hit by UK Government welfare cuts and in order to protect vulnerable communities against the economic damage of Brexit, last month I announced a further £500,000 investment in FareShare, which will support organisations that are responding to food insecurity. That is in addition to our £3.5 million fair food fund to tackle food insecurity. It is shocking that we have to take such measures, but we want to reach more of the people who will most need help.
In my constituency, Kirkcaldy Foodbank has seen a 90 per cent increase in use between December 2017 and December 2018. Does the cabinet secretary agree that Amber Rudd’s recent acknowledgement of the link between roll-out of universal credit and increased use of food banks is too little, too late? Does she also agree that the cruel and callous actions of the UK Government have caused untold misery for thousands of families across Scotland?
, I do. The acknowledgement from Amber Rudd is long overdue, but acknowledgement alone will not help families in Fife, Scotland or the rest of the UK. Amber Rudd needs to act now to change the failed system. That means reversing the benefits cap, the benefits freeze and the abhorrent rape clause. We will then see progress that does not leave people reliant on food banks for the most basic of needs.
The cabinet secretary is clearly aware of the increasing necessity of food banks. That necessity is shocking: we should not need Victorian-style charity in 21st century Scotland. Does she therefore agree that the £5 child benefit top-up that Labour has been calling for would make a big difference to many families, including families who are in receipt of universal credit?
That is why we are currently working on an income supplement, as Elaine Smith knows. She should recognise that we need to work together to put pressure on the UK Government to acknowledge that universal credit is a failed system and to recognise the impending cliff edge that many people will face if there is a no-deal exit from the European Union, which will punish most those who are least financially resilient.
Does Elaine Smith agree that we should unite on that message, especially given that we have had to announce £500,000 to prepare for Brexit in tackling food insecurity, which we know will happen if there is a no-deal exit from the EU? That is, to be quite frank, ridiculous and is testament to the reckless actions of the UK Government, which will punish most the people in society who have the least. That is an absolutely shocking indictment of the UK’s approach to welfare reform.